Liberty outlast Outlaws at home to move to 4-1

by Marjorie Anderson

Courtesy of the Salina Post
Written by Tyler Henry

After three straight weeks on the road, the Salina Liberty returned to Tony’s Pizza Events Center this weekend, and kept their winning streak alive, Outlasting the Billings Outlaws 33-30.

With another league victory, Salina joins Gillette and Sioux City in a tie for second at 4-1 while the Outlaws fall to 2-3. The Liberty’s next opponent in Omaha holds the CIF lead at 4-0.

Once again, the Liberty trailed late in this game, finding themselves down after each of the first three quarters.

The two teams traded early scores, with a two-yard Tracy Brooks rush allowing Salina to take a 7-6 lead midway through the opening quarter.

That lead wouldn’t last long, as on the ensuing kickoff Josh Batiste housed the return to give the Outlaws a 12-7 lead at the end of the first.

Salina would strike first in the second quarter to reclaim a 14-12 advantage on a 34-yard hookup from Javonte Johnson to D-Wash, but the tempo of this defensive duel had already been established, and for the rest of the evening, points on both sides would come at a premium.

After the teams traded turnovers on downs, Billings drove the length of the field and took an 18-14 lead courtesy of a connection from Vincent Espinoza to Batiste to end the half.

Out of the intermission, the Outlaws delivered another haymaker on a 23-yard touchdown run from Batiste to take their first and only double-digit lead of the game.

Needing a quick response, Jevonte Johnson found Mustaful Strong for a TD from the three-yard line, but once again Batiste had the answer, scampering in from five yards out to return a nine-point lead to the Outlaws.

That score would serve as the finale to a career performance by Josh Batiste, who accounted for all five Outlaw touchdowns, overshadowed only by a dismal day for the special teams unit, which went 0/5 on two-point conversions.

Billings wouldn’t find the end zone again for the remainder of the game, and as the Liberty defense tightened the screws, their running game continued to chip away at the Outlaw front, with Tracy Brooks punching in a score at the end of the third to cut the deficit to three.

Both defenses held strong in the fourth quarter but it was Billings who broke first, as Tristan Gould slipped through from the two-yard line to give Salina their eventual game-winner in a 33-30 affair.

The Outlaws would earn one final chance to steal a win on the road after the teams traded turnovers on downs, but once again, the Liberty stood tall, as Deetray Matthews stepped up to stuff Jamario Benson at the goal line, delivering Salina the victory.

The Liberty will be back in action next Saturday when they host the Omaha Beef in a rematch of last year’s Champions Bowl and a game that will see the winner take first place in the standings.