BRISTOL — Liberty County made sure the sequel was anticlimactic on Friday.
The Bulldogs scored all the points they needed in the game’s opening five minutes, as they defeated Bozeman 26-7 in a Region 2-1A semifinal. Liberty County increased its winning streak to eight games and advanced to next week’s regional final.
Bozeman finished 8-3 after making its second playoff appearance in school history.
It was a rematch of a regular-season meeting won by Liberty County when the Bulldogs were undermanned. Bozeman was plagued by offensive inconsistency and penalties in the loss, one of its worst showings of the season.
Friday may have been worse after a horrific first half that saw the Bucks lose three fumbles, toss one interception and give the ball away on downs and on a botched punt snap. The Bulldogs (9-2) made the Bucks pay for the mistakes.
“Obviously it was huge, the big first play then they made some mistakes that put us right in the game,” Liberty County coach Grant Grantham said. “Overall we played a great game.”
Two of the early miscues gave Liberty County the ball at the Bozeman 9-yard line. The first, set up by Bozeman snapping the ball over punter Jordan Burns’ head, led to a 6-yard scoring connection between quarterback Dustin Watson and running back Alex Marlowe for a 12-0 lead. Watson and Marlowe missed the previous Bozeman game with injuries.
Watson found Micah McCaskill for a 9-yard score two plays after the Bulldogs recovered a fumbled kickoff return. Liberty County made its first extra point for a 19-0 advantage with 7:15 to play in the first quarter.
“You want to play your best and these are things that hadn’t happened to us all year,” Bozeman coach Loren Tillman said. “When you give a good team the ball near the 10 twice they’re gonna score.”
Marlowe opened the scoring on the game’s first play with a 77-yard run. He was held in check the rest of the first half, but the Bucks couldn’t produce a sustained drive to cut into the deficit until late in the third quarter.
That drive encompassed 77 yards in 10 plays and included 30 of those gained on penalties. Jacob Martinez capped the drive with what was officially a 1-yard run. It actually took 12 after he fumbled the shotgun snap and squeaked past handfuls of defenders for the score.
Marlowe, who led all rushers with 222 yards, and the Bulldogs answered with a 16-play, 64-yard drive that erased 8:14 off the clock. Marlowe had 42 yards rushing on the march and Harold Armstrong carried the final 6 to cap the scoring.
“We have a mature team and it showed right there,” Grantham said.
Martinez had other brief flashes, and finished with 73 yards rushing while passing for 126. Jovani Bell added 48 yards rushing on 14 carries. Both seniors wrapped up their careers in the Bucks’ best season.
“This shouldn’t take away from anything this team accomplished,” Tillman said. “This is by far the best Bozeman football team and I’m proud of them.”
- Bozeman 0 0 7 0 - 7
- Liberty County 19 0 0 7 - 26
- First quarter
- LCHS - Marlowe 77 run (kick failed) 11:40, 6-0 LCHS
- LCHS - Marlowe 6 pass from Watson (run failed) 8:02, 12-0
- LCHS - McCaskill 9 pass from Watson (Espinoza kick) 7:15, 19-0
- Third quarter
- BOZ - Martinez 1 run (Burns kick) 2:17, 19-7
- Fourth quarter
- LCHS - Armstrong 6 run (Espinoza kick) 6:03, 26-7