THAYER 13, LIBERTY 27
Winning on the road can be a tough thing.
Especially when you find yourself behind the 8-ball from the get-go.
The Thayer Bobcats found this out firsthand last week as they traveled to the bootheel and were handed a big loss at the hands of the powerful Malden Greenwave.
As they made their way to Mountain View Sept. 22 for the second game of a four-week road trip, the Cats hoped to avoid the same pitfall that doomed them in Malden -- letting the home team jump out to a big lead, forcing Thayer to play catchup.
As it turns out, that's exactly what happened for the second week in a row, as the Liberty Eagles posted a big first half lead en route to a 27-13 victory over Thayer.
Liberty struck once in the first quarter, three more times in the second, to hold a 27-7 lead at the half.
The Cats (2-2) did regroup a bit at intermission, and after giving up 200 yards of offense to the Eagles (3-1) in the first half, held Liberty to under 50 yards of offense the rest of the rainy, windy evening at Liberty Stadium.
Liberty wanted to make hay from the game's outset, trying a squib kick to get the festivities started. Not fooled for a second, the Cats got the ball when Eli Martin recovered it for Thayer.
It looked like Thayer's first drive of the night would fizzle out after just three plays, but Michael Lowther pulled off a fake punt on fourth down and scooted to the Eagle 32-yard line, giving his squad a fresh set of downs.
The Cats used this second chance to drive deep, knocking on Liberty's door at the 18-yard line. However, a couple of rush attempts for minus yards, topped with a quarterback sack, ended this scoring threat, giving Liberty the ball on downs.
The Eagles then put together a four-minute scoring drive starting at their own 29-yard line.
Liberty converted a big fourth down conversion on this drive, faced with fourth-and-3 at the Bobcat 29.
Eagle quarterback Justin French hit Paris Walcut for a 19-yard completion that gave Liberty a first-and-goal from the Thayer 10.
French did the rest with his legs, scampering into the end zone on a bootleg-keeper at the 2:53 point of the first to get the Eagles going. The PAT was no good, but Liberty led 6-0 after one.
Despite a weather delay that saw both teams leave the field for a while in the second quarter, the Eagles found the end zone three more times in the frame to build a commanding lead.
On third-and-goal from the Bobcat 3 early in the second, French hit Nate Goodrich with a TD toss for the Eagles' first points of the second. Once again the extra-point try was no good, but Liberty had extended its advantage to 12-0.
Thayer did manage to drive the ball deep into Eagle territory in the second, but a fumble snuffed any chance the Cats had of getting the ball into the end zone.
French notched his second touchdown pass of the second with a 15-yard strike to Alex Kentner. The 2-point conversion made the score Liberty 20, Thayer 0.
Just before the half, the Eagles recorded one last TD, this one on a 2-yard run from Tim Bordon. Cody Honeycutt's PAT gave the Eagles a 27-0 lead at the break.
As it turned out, this would be Liberty's last points of the night, but still enough for victory.
The Cats did show they are capable of big-play ability early in the third.
Lowther ripped off an electrifying 91-yard kickoff return that gave the Bobcats a huge shot of momentum. Jason White booted the extra point, and Thayer had managed to keep from being shutout on the evening, although it trailed 27-7 after three.
While the Bobcat defense managed to hold Liberty in check over the course of the last two quarters, the Thayer offense showed signs of life in the fourth.
Jacob Sims broke free for a 27-yard punt return with a shade over six minutes left in the game to give the Cats a shot of adrenaline.
With the ball at their own 44, and faced with a third-and-5, the Cats got a big break when the Eagles were flagged for roughing the passer, giving Thayer a first down.
Bobcat quarterback Jacob Eckman (10-for-18, 98 yards passing) hit Tyler Bonds with a screen pass that got the ball into Eagle territory.
Eckman then finished the drive off as he hit Lowther (69 yards receiving, 43 rushing) with a 44-yard TD strike at the 4:04 point of the fourth. Scott Hargus delivered a block near the goal line that sprung Lowther into the end zone. The PAT was no good, but with four minutes left in the game, the Bobcats had clawed within 14, down 27-13.
The Cats tried an onside kick next, and it appeared that Kris Frillman had recovered the ball for Thayer at the 49, but it was ruled Eagle ball.
This was all Liberty needed to hold on for a 27-13 win.
After averaging 320 yards of offense a game during the first three weeks of the season, the Bobcats were held to under 200 against the Eagles.
Next up, the Bobcats travel to The Pit in Cabool Sept. 29 to tangle with the Bulldogs.