Coming off its first loss of the season and playing before a packed house, visiting Peoria Liberty used a balanced offensive and defensive attack to defeat host Glendale Raymond S. Kellis 47-12 Friday in a non-division contest.
“We knew coming off our loss last week (to Goodyear Desert Edge) we knew that we had to execute, and that (Kellis) would come out fired up,” Liberty coach Dan Filleman said. “We struggled early, but the kids did what they had to and turned it around.”
Liberty (8-1) struggled early, fumbling on its second play from scrimmage, but held Kellis (4-5) to a missed field goal on its first possession.
“We moved the ball, but mistakes kept us out of the end zone early,” Filleman said. “Our defense came up big early and late.”
Early on, Liberty moved the ball well, driving 80 yards on its second possession, culminating in a 16-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Rogers to Chad Bennett midway through the first quarter.
“We moved the ball pretty well, but give (Kellis) credit, they did what they had to in the first half,” Rogers said. “My line gave me lots of time to throw and huge holes to run the ball, we just took a little while to get going.”
Kellis rebounded early in the second quarter, as running back Blaine Freeman scored on an 11-yard run 14 seconds into the second quarter, then scored again two minutes later on a 10-yard run.
“They ran the ball really well in the first half,” Filleman said. “Our defense had trouble stopping (Freeman) and (D.J. Hampton) and we had to tell them to just play their game.”
Trailing 12-6 late in the first half, the Liberty defense forced a missed Kellis field goal, after which the offense broke out.
Starting at its own 20, the Liberty offense marched down to the Kellis 31 with just over a minute left in the half. Brandon Murphy took a pass from Rogers, cut to his right before cutting back up the middle and rumbling 31 yards for a score.
The Liberty defense gave the team a huge lift on Kellis’ next play when Devin Cappers stepped in front of an Adam Muller pass and raced 40 yards into the end zone.
“That was a huge defensive play that gave the team a huge lift,” Rogers said. “The defense came up with some big plays that really turned the offense on in the second half.”
Liberty’s potent passing game, that entered Friday averaging almost 250 yards a game, was held in check for most of the game, being held to 170 yards.
“(Kellis) showed us a completely look that they showed on film,” Filleman said. “I think it took us a little by surprise and that kind of shocked us early.”
Liberty dominated in the second half, gaining 263 of its 412 total yards from offense. Rogers finished with 170 yards passing and four touchdowns passes, along with 84 yards rushing. Murphy caught six passes for 100 yards, including a touchdown pass to lead Liberty.
“Our offense came up with some big yards in the second half and the line really tightened up and game us the time to move the ball,” Rogers said.
Liberty was held to 60 total yards on offense in the second half as Liberty’s defense tightened up and stopped Kellis every possession. Kellis was forced to play the second half without their top two rushers, as Freeman and Hampton were both forced out with injuries. The two combined for 113 first half rushing yards, before spending the second half on the bench.
“It made it a little easier to have those two out, but we made a couple of adjustments and the kids really executed well, especially in the second half,” Filleman said. “Now we are in line to make some noise in the playoffs.”