ROYSE CITY -- It seemed like Liberty-Eylau had squandered two golden opportunities to stun Sanger out of the gate and roll to an easy win in Thursday's Class 4A Division I area round contest at Royse City ISD Stadium following Ke'Mon Freeman's 29-yard strike to Decorian Meadows 1:09 into the game.

Liberty-Eylau reached the the 8-yard line its next drive and fumbled. Then the unit turned the ball over on downs at Sanger's 26-yard line in its third opportunity.

But the Leopards' set the game's tone immediately to give the offense more time, and Liberty-Eylau ultimately still ran away, 48-9, to set up a date with either Alvarado or Kaufman in the regional semifinal round.

The score was 48-3 when head coach Steve Wells began pulling the Leopards starters at the 10-minute mark of the fourth quarter. A 32-point margin of improvement from last week's escape act against Van in the bi-district playoff round.

"I feel like Van was just a bad game for us," senior cornerback Arymis Johnson said. "We got too relaxed. This week, you can see, if we play for four quarters, we'll get the job done."

Senior cornerback Arymis Johnson (6) celebrates with the Leopards' area round trophy. He was picked on the most through the game, but Liberty-Eylau held Sanger to 109 passing yards.

Up 28-3 midway through the third quarter, Johnson helped deliver the backbreaker.

Sanger (10-2) thought it had identified him as the weakness of Liberty-Eylau's secondary. Johnson was flagged for pass interference after giving up a step on a long pass attempt, which got Sanger out of a first-and-30 jam.

After losing four yards the next play, Sanger tried to capitalize on the same matchup and Johnson pulled down one of the best overall catches of the night.

Liberty-Eylau (11-1) drove 79 yards in four plays to put the game away on No. 2 running back Kameron Levingston's 4-yard run.

Sanger's season started to fade well before the Leopards managed a 35-3 lead with 4:50 left in the third period, however.

Junior defensive end LaGaryonn Carson, a Texas commitment, recorded his first of two sacks on Sanger's ninth snap to derail its second drive and force its second of six punts in the contest. Liberty-Eylau also recorded two takeaways and held for a missed long-range field goal for nine stops in total.

Aside from two sacks for minus-15 yards, Carson was just a general pest responsible for three other tackles for loss. Sanger almost never ran his way in the second half after a net of three rushing yards through the first two quarters.

Receiver Garyco Witcher takes off for a 60-yard touchdown reception after spinning off an opposing defensive back.

The Leopards held Sanger scoreless in the first period and began to pull away on their fourth offensive series after shaking off eight flags for 75 yards as a team. Outside receiver Garyco Witcher gave the squad a two-possession lead three minutes into the second quarter with a 12-yard catch from Freeman.

A Carson tackle for a 1-yard loss and a false start penalty immediately afterward crippled Sanger's followup drive. It settled for Dakota Branch's 39-yard field goal.

Liberty-Eylau and Sanger traded punts before Witcher burned the Sanger secondary with a spin move for a 60-yard touchdown reception.

Carson then earned his second sack to set up a missed 47-yard field goal attempt before the break.

"I think we really messed their offense up," Carson said. "We were able to get up in their face quick. Whenever we're in a big game, it's what we seem to do."

Freeman had 180 yards and three touchdown strikes in the first half. He extended his final line to 256 yards while completing 17 of 22 passes -- 77 percent. Witcher caught 102 of those yards on a team-best seven receptions.

The signal caller added 92 yards on the ground, including a short scoring run in the second half.

Running back Lamont Byrd jumped from 47 yards at the break to 175 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries as Liberty-Eylau wore down Sanger's defensive front.

Meadows added a second touchdown reception in the latter half as well.

Sanger put up 224 total yards of offense. It had 136 yards before the Leopards pulled the starting defense.

Sophomore running back Dameon Moser found the end zone from 20 yards with 1:40 left in the game to finish a 13-play, 80-yard drive. Liberty-Eylau fumbled away the ensuing kickoff return, but Sanger lost seven yards ahead of Moser's 15-yard gain down to the Leopards' 18-yard line as time expired.

"Our defense really stepped up tonight and played well the entire ball game," Wells said. "We were a little sluggish offensively in the first half, but we made some adjustments at halftime. We weren't getting to the line and playing fast like we need to do and we weren't reading our keys like we needed to. Coach (Rick) Cullum did a great job talking to them at the half and you saw the result in the second half."

Wells and company will revisit Royse City ISD Stadium next week regardless of whether Alvarado or Kaufman wins the head-to-head meeting today. The Leopards and those two competitors agreed earlier in the week to play Nov. 27 in Royse City.

The winning team from today's area round game will coordinate a kickoff time with Liberty-Eylau on Saturday.

"I think we proved tonight that we're the best team right now," Carson said. "We work as a team. We play as a team. I think you could see that tonight."

LaGaryonn Carson got to take the Leopards' newest trophy back to the locker room after a 48-9 win against Sanger in Royse City.

Liberty-Eylau 48, Sanger 9
Class 4A Division I Area Round Playoff Game
Royse City ISD Stadium, Royse City

Sanger                     0        3     0      6    --   9
Liberty-Eylau            7      14     21    6  --   48

First Quarter
LE--Decorian Meadows 27 pass from Ke'Mon Freeman (Daulton Turner kick), 10:51
Second Quarter
LE--Garyco Witcher 12 pass from Freeman (Turner kick), 8:58
SAN--Dakota Branch 39 field goal, 5:01
LE--Witcher 60 pass from Freeman (Turner kick), 1:45
Third Quarter
LE--Lamont Byrd 16 run (Turner kick), 7:59
LE--Kameron Levingston 4 run (Turner kick), 4:50
LE--Meadows 6 pass from Freeman (Turner kick), :36
Fourth Quarter
LE--Freeman 3 run (kick failed), 10:00
SAN--Dameon Moser 20 run (kick failed), 1:40

                                                  SAN              LE
First Downs                                  17                24
Total Yards                                  224              569
Rushes-Yards                         44-115            39-313
Passing Yards                             109               256
Comp.-Att.-Int.                         12-20-1         17-24-0
Punts-Avg.                                 6-35.3         1-27.0
Fumbles-Lost                              2-1              3-2
Penalties-Yards                          9-70            13-135

RUSHING--Sanger, Dameon Moser 19-106, Trent McMillin 4-13, Peyton Howard 3-5, Gavin Borwn 1-3, C.J. Jackson 17-(-7). Liberty-EylauLamont Byrd 17-175, Ke'Mon Freeman 12-92, Kameron Levingston 3-31, Caleb Jones 3-12, Laderrick Gray 1-11, Malcolm Payne 2-3, TEAM 1-(-7).
PASSING--Sanger, Jackson 12-20-1--109. Liberty-Eylau, Freeman 17-22-0--256, Thurman Morbly 0-1-0--0, Decorian Phillips 0-1-0--0.
RECEIVING--Sanger, Braven Smith 3-61, Brown 3-23, Clay Webster 1-17, McMillin 2-4, Turner Barnes 1-2, Howard 1-2. Liberty-EylauGaryco Witcher 7-102, Morbley 4-86, Decorian Meadows 5-57, Byrd 1-11.

Quarterback Ke'Mon Freeman completed 17 of 22 passes for 256 yards in Thursday's game. He threw four touchdown passes with no interceptions