BRISTOL — Grant Grantham’s lucky shorts worked again on Friday.
Harold Armstrong rushed for two touchdowns and Liberty County held Blountstown’s offense in check for a 14-7 win in the Region 2-1A championship. Liberty County, winners of nine in a row, advanced to host the winner of Bratt Northview, which defeated Freeport 35-28 in overtime, in next week’s state semifinal. Blountstown finished the season 7-5.
It’s the Bulldogs’ deepest postseason run and first semifinal appearance in Grantham’s seven seasons at the school. Grantham sported the shorts he started wearing after a 1-2 start.
“We’ll retire them after two more wins,” Grantham said.
The long-standing rivalry saw the first postseason matchup between the schools seperated by a bridge and a few right turns. It was a rematch of a regular-season game won by Liberty County that helped the Bulldogs (10-2) secure control of District 4-1A.
That game featured two big passing plays to give Liberty County a 14-0 halftime lead. The Bulldogs led again at half, this time 7-0 when Armstrong capped a 17-play drive with a 1-yard run early in the second quarter. The drive encompassed 80 yards and the Bulldogs also were forced to punt, fumbled and ended their third possession as the half expired.
Both defenses stood tall in the first 24 minutes, the teams combining for just 183 yards. Blountstown had 78 of those yards and squandered an early chance for points.
Liberty County forced a three-and-out on the game’s first drive, but the ball touched a Bulldog returner and Blountstown took over at the 25. The drive ended when Andrew Bennet’s 24-yard field goal was wide right. Blountstown’s second possession was stunted with a Alex Marlowe interception in the end zone and the Tigers also punted twice.
“We had it down there and missed an oportunity and in the playoffs you can’t do that,” Blountstown coach Greg Jordan said. “There’s no doubt you need to get points there.”
Grantham credited his defense, which held Blountstown to 79 yards rushing, with making the critical early stand. The offense went on to 14 unanswered points, adding a 9-yard Armstrong scoring run in the third.
Blountstown finally cracked the scoreboard on Alex Mayorga’s 7-yard reception from Hunter Jordan with 26 seconds left in the game. Jordan, who was 7 of 20 for 128 yards, didn’t get a chance to tie the game, as Liberty County recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock with a kneel down.
“We didn’t play our best, made some mistakes, but that’s a credit to them,” coach Jordan said.
Liberty County also wasn’t explosive on offense, but the Bulldogs did enough against a Tigers’ defense that had shut out three of their four previous opponents. Marlowe led all rushers with 55 yards, while Armstrong added 38.
Grantham and the Bulldogs will look to extend their streak to 10 at home next week.
“I always say I don’t mind going on the road,” Grantham said. “But it will be nice to play here and this team has played well at home all year.”
- Blountstown 0 0 0 7 - 7
- Liberty County 0 7 7 0 - 14
- Second quarter
- LCHS - Armstrong 1 run (Espinoza kick) 7:03, 7-0 LCHS
- Third quarter
- LCHS - Armstrong 9 run (Espinoza kick) 1:51, 14-0
- Fourth quarter
- BHS - Mayorga 7 pass from Jordan (Bennet kick) :26, 14-7