Liberty-Eylau Blanks Pittsburg To Stay In District 7-4A Division I Title Chase
PITTSBURG -- Liberty-Eylau was tabbed in the preseason to win District 7-4A Division I and to have an opportunity at much, much more.
But that was before first-year head coach Brad Baca and the Pittsburg Pirates got their early say, and they started the season 6-0. What had been circled as a relatively easy win for the Leopards in the preseason suddenly was being advertised as the best overall game of East Texas' Week 8 slate.
The Associated Press' 10th-ranked Class 4A team renewed its case Friday at Pirate Stadium. Liberty-Eylau handled Pittsburg, 28-0, to stay in control of the district race alongside Princeton.
"It shows that we're a tough team," Leopards senior running back Lamont Byrd said. "Putting up a goose egg against a 6-0, undefeated team that was supposed to upset us was great."
The Pirates won the coin toss and elected to receive. They fumbled on their second offensive play to set up a seven-play, 34-yard drive capped by Byrd's 1-yard run just more than three minutes into the game.
And that was only the beginning of a strong defensive performance for the Leopards (6-1, 2-0). Safety Andre Wiley Jr. led the way with an interception and a forced fumble Liberty-Eylau managed to recover.
The unit recorded four takeaways as a whole. Pittsburg (6-1, 1-1) never got closer to the end zone than Leopard's 12-yard line and only 24 of its 61 plays were beyond the midfield line.
Wiley and company held the Pirates to turnovers on downs both times it reached the red zone.
Six dropped passes, including two potential touchdowns, didn't help the counter cause.
"We just came in and really wanted to show all the doubters and shut all the talkers down," Wiley said. "We said, 'Wait till game time.' And, when game time came, we were able to shut them down."
Liberty-Eylau's offense also performed well, considering the caliber of competition. Even after the loss, the opposing defense is averaging 17.5 points against per game.
The Leopards only scored on four of 12 opportunities. Pittsburg killed two drives with interceptions by defensive backs Hugo Fluellen and Bobby Stroud.
But Byrd finished his night with two touchdowns and a team-best 109 rushing yards on 18 touches. Quarterback Ke'Mon Freeman also ran for two scores on the way to 67 yards on the ground and 172 yards through the air.
Liberty-Eylau missed its two-point conversion following its early score. Pittsburg blew up Freeman's attempt to score on a swinging gate play.
Freeman got the team's scoring back on track, however, after the defense forced a three-and-out midway through the first quarter.
Receiver Thurman Morbley caught a 17-yard pass from Freeman on 4th-and-seven from the Pittsburg 31-yard line to keep the Leopards' second drive of the game alive. Byrd ran for five yards the next play and then Freeman reached the end zone from nine yards out.
Freeman connected with Decorian Meadows for the two-point conversion to give Liberty-Eylau a 14-0 advantage.
In the second quarter, Byrd gained 26 yards of a 56-yard drive assisted by a Pittsburg face mask penalty before punching it in from one yard with two minutes left in the half.
Freeman scored on a 7-yard run to close scoring with 7:56 left in the game. The Pirates' final two drives ended with turnovers on downs.
"Offensively, we started out fast," Liberty-Eylau head coach Steve Wells said. "But defensively, all night long, it was great."
The victory allowed the Leopards to keep pace with Princeton, which edged Paris elsewhere to stay perfect within district play. Liberty-Eylau and Princeton will meet on the final night of the regular season.
Pittsburg will try to rebound on the road at Paris this week. Paris is 0-2 within the league following losses to Liberty-Eylau and Princeton.
Liberty-Eylau next hosts Quinlan Ford, a 1-6 team overall after a 47-18 loss to Paris North Lamar.
"They're going through a tough season right now," Wells said. "I'll tell you though, Todd Wallace and his staff do a great job with those kids. I've been in that situation before. We're going to do our best next week because we'll have to. There are no gimmes. You've got to focus and get ready for them. That's what we intend to do."
No. 10 Liberty Eylau 28, Pittsburg 0
District 7-4A Division I
Pirate Stadium, Pittsburg
Liberty-Eylau 14 7 0 7 -- 28
Pittsburg 0 0 0 0 -- 0
LE--Lamont Byrd 1 run (run failed), 8:51
LE--Ke'Mon Freeman 9 run (Decorian Meadows pass from Freeman), 5:31
LE--Byrd 1 run (Dalton Turner kick), 2:00
LE--Freeman 7 run (Turner kick), 7:56
First Downs 18 12
Total Yards 339 240
Rushes-Yards 39-167 41-138
Passing Yards 172 102
Comp.-Att.-Int. 15-25-2 9-20-2
Punts-Avg. 1-45 3-40.3
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 3-2
Penalties-Yards 7-72 10-109
RUSHING--Liberty-Eylau, Lamont Byrd 18-109, Ke'Mon Freeman 16-67, LaDerrick Gray 1-7, Malcolm Payne 2-3, Kameron Levingston 1-(-2), Caleb Jones 1(-5), TEAM 1-(-11). Pittsburg, Tray Walker 17-84, Denzel Green 9-48, Brian Baca 14-6, Damien Porter 1-0.
PASSING--Liberty-Eylau, Freeman 15-25-2--172. Pittsburg, Baca 8-19-2--88, Porter 1-1-0--14.
RECEIVING--Liberty-Eylau, Thurman Morbley 4-58, Green 1-46, Decorian Meadows 5-31, Byrd 4-23, Garyco Witcher 2-14. Pittsburg, Porter 5-70, Dejour Dowell 1-14, Walker 1-10, Lateric Harper 1-4, Trajony Sheppard 1-4.