BRISTOL – Liberty County provided the shovel, Northview dug the hole.
The Chiefs jumped on early Bulldogs’ miscues and cruised to a 48-14 victory in a Class 1A state football semifinal on Friday. Brannon Freeman rushed for 148 yards and LaMikal Kyles 116 and they combined for five touchdowns in the rout. Northview’s defense also held down Liberty County and the Bulldogs continued to stunt their progress with key penalties.
Northview (10-3) moved on to its first state final to face the winner of Trenton-Newberry in Orlando on Friday. The Chiefs survived their first state semifinal after falling short at the same point in each of the past two seasons. Liberty County (10-3) last advanced to the state final in 1969 and will have to wait another year to end the drought.
Liberty County coach Grant Grantham stated the obvious earlier in the week, that the Bulldogs would need to play cleanly to have a shot to win. They didn’t and couldn’t get untracked to make a dent in the deficit.
“We didn’t start off well or like we needed to,” Grantham said. “They had been turning the ball over lately, but didn’t tonight. We did and it changed the game.”
Northview scored five plays after Liberty County fumbled away the opening kickoff return. Freeman capped the drive with a 2-yard run and his first score of the first half.
Liberty County, which had a nine-game winning streak snapped, punted on its next series, but the ball drifted out of bounds after only 13 yards. Northview took over at its 46 and scored seven plays later on a 2-yard run by Kyles, who also scored twice in the first half.
The Bulldogs tried to mount answers and had two manageable fourth-down tries on two drives. However, illegal procedure penalties on each pushed them into fourth-and-10 each time and Liberty County decided to punt on one possession and turned the ball over on downs on the second.
Northview racked up 228 yards and a 28-0 halftime lead. Liberty County was held to 94 yards in the first half. The Bulldogs’ deepest penetration was the Chiefs’ 20 on a possession that ended with an interception before Alex Marlowe finally put Liberty County on the scoredboard with a 50-yard run late in the third quarter.
Marlowe, one of 12 seniors, finished with 113 yards rushing and grabbed two receptions for 47 to lead Liberty County. Dustin Watson, also a senior, was 3 of 13 for 59 yards while adding a touchdown and an interception.
The group of seniors and the rest of the team helped Liberty County finish with one of its best seasons since previously advancing to the state semis in 1998.
“This group won 38 games in four years,” Grantham said. “They are a fine group of kids.”
- Northview 14 14 13 7 - 48
- Liberty County 0 0 7 7 - 14
- First quarter
- NHS - Freeman 2 run (Vaughn kick) 10:23, 7-0 NHS
- NHS - Kyles 2 run (Vaughn kick) 5:20, 14-0
- Second quarter
- NHS - Freeman 12 run (Vaughn kick) 9:40, 21-0
- NHS - Kyles 32 run (Vaughn kick) 4:05, 28-0
- Third quarter
- NHS - Thomas 13 run (kick failed) 7:26, 34-0
- NHS - Freeman 51 run (Vaughn kick) 1:51, 41-0
- LCHS - Marlowe 50 run (Espinoza kick) :05, 41-7
- Fourth quarter
- NHS - Robinson 15 pass from Vaughn (Vaughn kick) 9:20, 48-7
- LCHS - McCaskill 12 pass from Watson (Espinoza kick) 4:43, 48 -14