WICHITA – The Salina Liberty reclaimed the driver’s seat in the CIF North Division with a come from behind win over the Wichita Force, 56-47, at Intrust Bank Arena Saturday night.
The Liberty started the game with a sluggish first half, which included being shut out in the first quarter, 10-0. The Liberty would get on the scoreboard for the first time with 11:21 to go in the half on a Dominique Carson two yard run and the Wichita lead was cut to 10-7. Wichita answered back on their next possession with a touchdown pass of their own, extending their lead to 17-7.
After a defensive stop, the Force again got into the end zone and extended their lead to 24-7 with just 2:34 to go in the half. Just seconds later, Dominique Carson scored on a 21 yard pass from Bernard, which cut the Force lead to 24-14 with 2:06 to go before halftime.
The Force answered back with a touchdown re-extending their lead to 31-14 with :26 to go in the half. Liberty quarterback Derrick Bernard would then answer back with a 17 yard strike to Julian Stafford and the Wichita lead was again cut down to just 10 points, 31-21, with just :10 left, but the Force would end the half with a bang when former Liberty running back Ed Smith, Jr. returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, which gave Wichita a 38-21 halftime lead.
Salina came out of the halftime locker room and scored on the opening possession of the half, a Dominique Carson 1 yard run and the Force lead was cut to 38-28. Wichita added a field goal to extend their to lead to 41-28 going into the final quarter.
After the Liberty defense forced a turnover in the form of a Trey Dudley-Giles interception, Bernard connected with Rashad Pargo on a 19 yard touchdown pass, which cut the Force lead to 41-35 with 9:53 to go in the game. The Liberty defense again game up with another stop and the Salina offense capitalized when Bernard scored on a 12 yard run, which gave Salina the lead, 42-41, with 5:54 to go in the game.
After the defense again stopped Wichita, Bernard connected with Pargo again, this time from 12 yards out, to extended the Salina lead to 49-41 with 2:05 to go in the game. Wichita finally answered back with their only second half touchdown, but failed to convert a two point conversion and Salina’s lead was cut to 49-47 with :53 left in the game.
Salina recovered an onside kick and Derrick Bernard put the exclamation point on the game with a two yard touchdown run, giving the Liberty a 56-47 victory over the rival Force.
Leading Salina Saturday night was quarterback Derrick Bernard, who went 18 of 31 passing for 226 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also had two more touchdowns on the ground. Rashad Pargo led all Liberty receivers with 7 catches for 81 yards and 2 touchdowns. Julian Stafford also caught one touchdown. Dominique Carson led the team in rushing with 30 yards on the ground and 2 touchdowns. He also had a touchdown reception. Leading the Liberty defense Saturday was Trey Dudley-Giles who had 5 tackles and 3 interceptions on the night. New kicker Jimmy Allen was also a key contributor Saturday night, going a perfect 8 for 8 on extra points in his Liberty debut.
With the win, Salina improves to 8-3 on the season and once again gives them the top spot on the CIF North Division aided by a Quad City loss at Amarillo Saturday night, 68-55. Sioux City stayed even with Salina at 8-3 after a 78-49 win over Kansas City.
With a home playoff game again within reach, the Liberty will next travel to Independence, Missouri to take on the last place Kansas City Phantoms (3-8) on Saturday in their regular season finale at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena. Kickoff is set for 7:05 p.m.