Liberal gets by Great Bend with two late scores

Published: Oct. 9, 2020 at 11:17 PM CDT
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GREAT BEND, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Erin Beck has never had a losing season in Great Bend. Entering the 2020 campaign, his Panthers had posted a 28-14 record in his first four seasons as head coach. Friday night, however, Great Bend was still in search of its first win of the season to avoid its worst start since 1996. Liberal, playing Homecoming spoiler, used a pair of late touchdowns to steal a 22-14 win.

Great Bend scored early and still led 14-8 midway through the fourth quarter. The Redskin defense forced a turnover on downs and Liberal marched 59 yards in nine plays to set up the go-ahead score. Junior quarterback Shay Kerr missed on his first five attempts in the second half before finding sophomore Izzy Garcia-Rotolo in the end zone from 12 yards out.

That touchdown leveled the score at 14 with 7:14 to play and Liberal still had the option of kicking or going for two. Kerr again came up big, this time with a pass to Hunter Huskey to put the Redskins ahead 16-14.

The Panthers again turned the ball over on downs and Liberal was again able to capitalize. This time, a defender slipped on fourth-and-10, giving Garcia-Rotolo an easy road to the end zone on a 37-yard pass from Kerr.

Trailing 22-14, Great Bend went down with a fight, driving all the way to the Redskin 23-yard line in the waning seconds of the contest. Facing fourth down, junior Joseph Moeder sailed a pass over his receiver’s head to effectively end the game.

The Panthers looked good in the first offensive drive of the night, needing just 10 plays to go 66 yards for the first points of the contest. Junior Gavin Haberman broke free for a 23-yard run to put Great Bend on the board.

Liberal answered right back, converting on three third-down plays to keep a long drive alive. Senior Malcolm Wiltshire was the hero of that series, breaking a tackle to take a Kerr pass 19 yards to the house. The Redskins led 8-7 with 1:44 to play in the opening frame.

The Panthers punted away their next possession but forced a Redskin fumble on the very next play. Great Bend milked some six minutes off the clock before Moeder found junior Paco Hernandez from two yards out. That 14-8 score lasted all the way until the middle of the fourth quarter.

The Panthers struggled offensively in the second half. Haberman had 76 yards on 16 carries in the first half but just passed the century mark with 107 yards on 22 attempts to end the game. Moeder added 24 yards on seven carries and threw for 78 yards on 8-of-13 passing in the first half.

Kerr finished strong to throw for 61 yards and a three scores on 3-of-9 passing. He also threw an interception in the first half. Garcia-Rotolo hauled in two touchdown passes totaling 49 yards. Junior Easton Zapien led the ground attack with 112 yards on his 22 carries. Senior Alex Esparza added 51 yards on eight attempts, all in the second half.

Great Bend falls to 0-5 on the season with a missed game against Kapaun in week four. Liberal also opened the season at 0-4 but has now won its last two games.

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