Liberty 42, Handley 6
There's no such thing as a perfect game in football. But if there were, the label could be applied to the first-half performance of No. 10 Liberty in its 42-6 victory over Handley in a AA Northwestern District game on Friday night.
As the Eagles (7-0, 4-0 district) attempt to go undefeated in the district for the second straight year, they disposed of one of their toughest foes by scoring touchdowns on each of their four first-half possessions.
"We just clicked and came together," Liberty senior quarterback Nick Monaco said. "We need to keep building on it. There are things you can work on."
Monaco was 4 of 4 for 147 yards in the first half, including touchdown passes of 25 and 54 yards that both came on play-action passes. His 15-yard rushing touchdown, on which he spun through the tackle of a Handley defender, gave Liberty a 28-0 lead shortly before halftime.
"I'm real proud of that kid," Liberty Coach Tommy Buzzo said of Monaco. "I think he played well tonight. It was probably his best game."
Liberty's offense was so dominating early on that it had two touchdowns on the opening possession. On the second play from scrimmage, Monaco faked a handoff and then raced around the left end for a 55-yard touchdown. Because his fake was so good, however, the officials blew the whistle when the running back was tackled, negating the touchdown.
Unfazed by the second inadvertent whistle of the season against them, the Eagles churned out six more plays before Monaco connected with Steven Lewis on a beautiful play-action pass for a 25-yard touchdown.
"At the beginning of the season, we were really bad with our fakes," said Monaco, who finished the game 4-of-5 passing. "We got better every game, and now we're running downfield with our fakes."
A big reason the Eagles' fakes are so effective is senior running back Justin Carrington, who carried 20 times for 192 yards. Though he did not add to his season total of 14 rushing touchdowns, he upped his season yardage total to a career-high 1,161 yards.
While Liberty's offense was hitting on all cylinders, the defense suffocated the Judges (4-3, 2-2) and contained explosive quarterback L.A. Anderson. Anderson entered the game averaging 71.2 rushing yards per game, but the Eagles held him to 39.
"If you had told me last night that we would hold Handley to six points, I would have taken it without question," Buzzo said. "I'm real proud of our defense. Containing [Anderson] for four quarters and holding them to one touchdown, I think that's a good performance."
With the victory, the Eagles took another step toward repeating their district title. They face a tough Warren County team on the road next week, so the Eagles weren't letting the lopsided victory over Handley soften their focus.
"I don't want to jinx us," Monaco said. "Nobody is unbeatable. We're going to come back and work just as hard as we did for Handley."