Liberty-Eylau Captures Third Straight Win Behind The Passing Of Ke’Mon Freeman, 50-33
TATUM -- It's only been four weeks, but Liberty-Eylau's season-opening loss at Gilmer seems like such a long time ago.
The Leoaprds' offense dazzled for the third consecutive week, while its defense was the beneficiary of four Tatum third-quarter turnovers, which propelled Liberty-Eylau to its third win a row.
Liberty-Eylau senior quarterback Ke'Mon Freeman passed for 426 yards and five touchdowns as the Leopards took care of Tatum, 50-33, Friday night at Eagle Stadium, sending Tatum to its first 0-3 start since 1996.
Since dropping a 50-45 decision at defending state champion Gilmer in Week 1, Liberty-Eylau (3-1) has outscored its next three opponents by a combined 90 points.
Tatum, which pulled to within 10 points before halftime, couldn't acquire any momentum in the second half. The Eagles' three losses have come to Gilmer and Newton -- both 2014 state finalists -- and Liberty-Eylau, which reached the Class 4A Division I state quarterfinals a season ago.
Freeman accounted for all four Liberty-Eylau touchdowns in the Leopards' 29-point first quarter. He passed for scores on L-E's first two possessions, and added an 8-yard touchdown run that was sandwiched between his third scoring toss of the first 12 minutes.
The Liberty-Eylau quarterback completed 21 of 30 attempts to seven different receivers for the game, and delivered touchdowns passes of 43, 53, 9, and 57 yards.
Leopards receiver Thurman Morbley caught four passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns, Garyco Witcher hauled in five receptions for 89 yards and a score, and Decorian Meadows made four catches for 63 yards. LaDerrick Gray also caught a touchdown and finished with 59 receiving yards.
Tatum's defense controlled Freeman in the running game, limiting him to 35 yards on 13 attempts. Senior running back Lamont Byrd led L-E on the ground with 62 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. He also had three catches for 78 yards.
Tatum, which was outgained by 200 yards, got most of its offensive production from quarterback J.D. Taylor, who passed for 169 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 66 yards and two additional scores.
Eagles junior running back LeMarcus Harmon picked up 80 yards on eight carries, including a 55-yard touchdown run just before halftime that trimmed Liberty-Eylau's lead to 29-19.
But Tatum's carelessness with the football squashed any positive momentum created at the end of the first half.
Tatum's first six drives of the second half featured a pair of three-and-outs and four lost fumbles, which led to 14 Liberty-Eylau points that increased the Leopards' lead to 50-19 early in the fourth quarter.
The Eagles' offense found some rhythm in the fourth quarter with a pair of touchdowns, but it wasn't enough to erase the third-quarter mistakes.
It took Liberty-Eylau five plays to score on its opening drive of the game. Freeman hooked up with Morbley for a 43-yard touchdown less than two minutes in for a 7-0 lead.
Following a Tatum three-and-out, the Leopards turned to the big play once more on the ensuing drive.
Freeman connected with LaDerrick Gray on a short pass in the flat. Gray was surrounded by multiple Tatum defenders but managed to squirt free for a 53-yard touchdown. Meadows, the holder on the extra point, decided to run the ball in for the two-point conversion, which gave the Leopards a 15-0 lead.
Tatum's next drive stalled, and Liberty-Eylau drove 62 yards in six plays, scoring on Freeman's 8-yard run to give the Leopards a 22-0 advantage with 3:43 remaining in the opening quarter.
Denarius Earl returned the ensuing kickoff to midfield, and Tatum found the end zone for the first time on the fifth play of the series -- a Taylor 7-run run, which trimmed the deficit to 22-6.
A 55-yard gain on a screen pass from Freeman to Byrd on L-E's ensuing possession helped set up Freeman's third touchdown pass of the first quarter -- a 9-yarder to Morbley for a 29-6 lead.
Two series later, Tatum took advantage of a short punt to begin at the Liberty-Eylau 30. And Taylor connected with Da'Calen Hicks, who made a diving catch in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown, trimming Liberty-Eylau's lead to 29-12 with 5:57 to play until halftime.
Liberty-Eylau moved the ball into Tatum territory on its next drive, but came up one short yard on fourth-and-3, allowing the Eagles to regain possession at its own 36. And on third-and-1, Harmon broke free for a 55-yard touchdown run, which cut the Leopards' lead to 29-19.
Liberty-Eylau didn't take advantage when Tatum went three-and-out on its first drive of the third quarter, and fumbled on its second.
But on Tatum's next series, L-E junior linebacker Michael Lindley pounced on a Harmon fumble, and returned it 15 yards to the Eagles' 3-yard line. Byrd's touchdown run on the next play extended the Leopards' lead to 36-19.
Tatum punted after three unfruitful downs, and Liberty-Eylau struck fast by scoring on its first play after that -- a 57-yard pass from Freeman to Witcher.
The Eagles fumbled again on their next drive, but Liberty-Eylau returned the favor. Instead of taking advantage of the L-E's misfortune, Tatum lost its fourth fumble of the quarter, and this time, the Leopards made it count.
Byrd's 2-yard touchdown run in the first minute of the fourth quarter extended the lead to 50-19.
Tatum scored in the fourth quarter on Taylor's 1-yard run and his 12-yard pass to Braylon Roberts.
Each teams returns to the field next Friday night. Liberty-Eylau has Atlanta (2-2) at home, while Tatum hosts Chapel Hill (0-4).
Liberty-Eylau 50, Tatum 33
At Eagle Stadium, Tatum
Liberty-Eylau 29 0 14 7 -- 50
Tatum 6 13 0 14 -- 33
LE--Thurman Morbley 43 pass from Ke'Mon Freeman (Daulton Turner kick), 10:22.
LE--LaDerrick Gray 53 pass from Freeman (Decorian Meadows run), 8:48.
LE--Freeman 8 run (Turner kick), 3:43.
TAT--J.D. Taylor 7 run (pass failed), 1:50.
LE--Morbley 9 pass from Freeman (Turner kick), :23.
TAT--Da'Calen Hicks 18 pass from Taylor (run failed), 5:57.
TAT--LeMarcus Harmon 55 run (Jesus Sandoval kick), :37.
LE--Lamont Byrd 3 run (Turner kick), 6:37.
LE--Garyco Witcher 57 pass from Freeman (Turner kick), 5:22.
LE--Byrd 2 run (Turner kick), 11:03.
TAT--Taylor 1 run (pass failed), 4:03.
TAT--Braylon Roberts 12 pass from Taylor (Taylor run), 3:25.
First Downs 22 14
Total Yards 536 336
Rushes-Yards 37-110 43-167
Passing Yards 426 169
Comp.-Att.-Int. 21-31-0 14-18-0
Punts-Avg. 4-24.8 5-31.0
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 5-4
Penalties-Yards 9-75 8-59
RUSHING--Liberty-Eylau, Lamont Byrd 13-62, Ke'Mon Freeman 13-35, Kameron Levingston 8-14, Malcolm Payne 1-5, LaDerrick Gray 1-1, Caleb Jones 1-(-7). Tatum, LeMarcus Harmon 8-80, J.D. Taylor 26-66, Josh Ivy 6-14, Denarius Earl 3-7.
PASSING--Liberty-Eylau, Freeman 21-30-0--426. Tatum, Taylor 14-18-0--169.
RECEIVING--Liberty-Eylau, Garyco Witcher 5-89, Thurman Morbley 4-107, Decorian Meadows 4-63, Byrd 3-78, Gray 2-59, Levingston 2-59, Aaron Bruce 1-12. Tatum, Jamaine Moore 3-43, Spencer Liles 3-39, Jordan Smith 3-36, Da'Calen Hicks 2-29, Braylon Roberts 1-10, Earl 1-6, Shay Rodgers 1-4.