Red-Hot Liberty-Eylau Rolls Into Tatum, Where Eagles Searching For Win No. 1
Liberty-Eylau Leopards (2-1)
Tatum Eagles (0-2)
7:30 p.m. Friday
Eagle Stadium, Tatum
- Liberty-Eylau: Steve Wells
- Tatum: Andy Evans
- Liberty-Eylau: vs. Atlanta, Sept. 25
- Tatum: vs. Chapel Hill, Sept. 25
- DE Lagaryonn Carson, Jr., 6-5, 255
- QB Ke'Mon Freeman, Sr., 6-0, 205 (49 of 85, 925 yards, 8 TDs, 1 INT; 41 carries, 307 yards, 5 TDs)
- WR Thurman Morbley, Sr., 6-0, 165 (15 catches, 384 yards, 4 TDs)
- RB Lamont Byrd, Sr., 5-9, 180 (44 carries, 355 yards, 6 TDs)
- DB Andre Wiley, Sr., 5-10, 185
- LB Demarcus Pegue, Sr., 5-10, 220
- WR Decorian Meadows, Sr., 5-11, 150 (17 catches, 268 yards, 3 TDs)
- RB Kameron Levingston, Jr., 5-8, 175 (18 carries, 161 yards, 2 TDs)
- TE/DE Shay Rodgers, Jr., 6-4, 240 (5 tackles, 1 for loss)
- LB D'Torian Smith, Jr., 6-3, 230 (8 tackles, 2 for loss, 1 sack)
- QB J.D. Taylor, Sr., 6-2, 180 (14 of 33, 304 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs; 21 carries, 86 yards)
- RB Denarius Earl, Sr., 5-7, 150 (15 carries, 24 yards, 1 TD; 3 catches, 69 yards, 1 TD)
- WR/DB Da'Calen Hicks, Sr., 6-0, 190 (5 catches, 132 yards; 10 tackles, 3 for loss)
- RB/LB LeMarcus Harmon, Jr. (15 carries, 49 yards, 1 TD; 22 tackles, 5 for loss)
- WR Jamaine Moore, Sr. (4 catches, 91 yards, 1 TD)
- DL Ke'Traelan Harrison, Sr., 5-11, 230 (17 tackles, 2 for loss)
Just the facts
- This is just the second all-time meeting between Liberty-Eylau and Tatum, the back end of a home-and-home that began with last year's 41-14 Tatum win.
- Combined, Liberty-Eylau and Tatum have four state championships -- all coming since 1999.
- Liberty-Eylau is averaging 636.7 yards and 53.3 points per game.
- The Leoaprds' trio of quarterback Ke'Mon Freeman, running back Lamont Byrd, and receiver Thurman Morbley has combined for 15 of the team's 23 offensive touchdowns.
- In last week's win over Arkansas High, L-E put up a school-record 838 yards. The Leopards averaged 10.3 yards on their 81 offensive snaps.
- Tatum has scored 28 points in its two games, and averaged 282.5 yards in losses to Newton and Gilmer.
- The Eagles are are trying to avoid their first 0-3 start since the 1996 season, which ironically, ended with a state-championship game appearance.
- Tatum has dropped four consecutive non-district games dating back to last year.
Key matchup: Liberty-Eylau rushing attack vs. Tatum defensive front. Despite Liberty-Eylau quarterback Ke'Mon Freeman's 313-yard, five-touchdown passing performance last week, the Leopards still rang up 525 rushing yards. Senior running back Lamont Byrd and Freeman did the majority of the damage by combining for 370 yards on the ground, as L-E averaged 9.5 yards every time it ran the ball. It's unlikely the Leopards will duplicate those numbers for a second consecutive week, but you have to figure L-E will still roll up a sizable chunk of rushing yards and center most of its game plan around the running game.
Tatum has struggled containing its first two opponents' rushing prowess. In a season-opening 37-28 loss to Newton, the Eagles surrendered 368 ground yards to an offense that attempted only eight passes on the night. In last week's loss to Gilmer, the Buckeyes punished Tatum's defense for 218 yards on only 27 carries -- an average of more than eight yards per rush. While Newton and Gilmer each played for state title a season ago, the lack of success stopping teams on the ground is a bit surprising for Tatum, which does have quality players along its defensive front, including lineman Shay Rodgers and Ke'Traelan Harrison, and linebacker D'Torian Smith.
Making matters for problematic for Tatum is its offensive deficiencies the first two weeks. The Eagles' production was slightly above average against Newton with 315 yards, but it managed a modest 5.7 yards per snap. However, last week's offensive struggles were even more pronounced, as the Eagles were shut out for the first time since a 2011 loss to Gilmer. Sustaining drives and ending them with points on a more consistent basis could go a long way in keeping Liberty-Eylau's high-flying offensive attack from taking over the game.
Don't be surprised if: Friday's game is more competitive than many people expect. Despite L-E's seemingly superior edge in talent, these two teams are just a year removed from Tatum's 41-14 road win at Liberty-Eylau. It's true that the Leopards are a much more confident team at this point, having won nine of their last 11 games, but Tatum is desperate for something good to happen. The Eagles haven't started 0-3 in almost 20 years, and with tough non-district games remaining against Chapel Hill and Hardin-Jefferson, Tatum would like to be headed in the right direction in time for its District 6-4A Division II opener against Gladewater on Oct. 9.
With that being said, Liberty-Eylau appears to be a bona fide state championship contender. It's only loss -- a 50-45 defeat on opening night at defending state champion Gilmer -- has been followed with a 49-21 beatdown of Class 5A-Mount Pleasant and last week's demolition of Arkansas High. This week's game provides Liberty-Eylau with yet another opportunity to announce its presence in East Texas with authority. Following Tatum, the Leopards have reigning 4A Division II quarterfinalist Atlanta, before venturing into 7-4A D-I, where Paris and Pittsburg -- both 3-0 -- await.