Liberty had no authentic game film on Northwest Christian, so the Lancers put their focus Friday night on generating offensive balance.
Liberty’s plan worked, as junior Match Burnham threw for 298 yards and three touchdowns and sophomore Maxwell Johnson added 122 rushing yards and two scores as the Lancers spoiled the Crusaders’ first football game in history with a 44-7 Northeast 2B win at the old Mead Middle School.
“The only film that we had was from the jamboree that they played last week against North Central Washington B League teams,” Lancers coach Mike Dewey said. “It was difficult to prepare for, certainly. … We tried to throw quite a bit early and then when the game went on we went back to the running game, to establish that, and it was really effective in the second half.”
The lopsided outcome didn’t devastate the Crusaders, who gathered with fans after the game to point out all of the positives of starting the new program.
“For us, it’s never about the final score,” NWC coach Jim Nendel said. “It’s not about winning or losing. It’s about building character and it’s about winning the day.”
Burnham threw for 225 yards in the first half and finished with 63 rushing yards to guide the Lancers toward 563 total yards.
“Last week (a 35-8 nonleague loss to Tri-Cities Prep), we didn’t pass very well,” Burnham said. “This week, I think we passed a lot better and ran the ball hard. Maxwell was a beast and we just executed.”
Johnson’s 43-yard TD run in the second quarter and 8-yard TD run on the Lancers’ first drive of the second half gave Liberty breathing room after a 12-7 first quarter.
“I didn’t do too well (last week),” said Johnson, whose effort Friday was his first career 100-yard game. “I had a pretty low-yardage game. But I worked on it in practice and came out and did my best.”
Senior Jerry Sanders, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound tight end/linebacker, had the honor of scoring the first TD in Crusaders history, a 68-yard kickoff return that gave NWC a brief 7-6 lead.
“The idea was to kick it over (Sanders’) head, because he’s quite a player … and our guy kicked a short line drive right to No. 82,” Dewey said.
Three minutes later, after turnovers by both teams, junior Clay Fleming got behind NWC’s defense for a 63-yard TD reception and 12-7 lead.
The Crusaders responded by driving inside the Lancers’ 10-yard line, but junior Jake Kasinger intercepted David Olds at the 3.
“That’s the learning process, understanding that when we have those opportunities we have to make those plays,” Nendel said.
Sophomore Ethan Perriah led the Crusaders with 69 yards on 18 carries.
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