Jul 07, 2024

Liberty weather Storm, punch ticket to AFL semifinals with 41-35 victory

Posted Jul 07, 2024 3:56 PM

Lead Sportswriter - Salina Post

It wasn’t always pretty, but when it mattered most, the Salina Liberty buckled down and defeated the Southwest Kansas Storm to punch their ticket to the AFL Semifinals.

With a 41-35 victory, the Liberty secure a date with the Albany Firebirds in New York next week while the Storm see their season draw to a close at 4-6.

Coverage of Liberty football is presented by Ryan Roofing.
Coverage of Liberty football is presented by Ryan Roofing.

This game began and ended in chaos, with the whole contest played within two possessions.

Southwest Kansas would strike first, recording a safety on the Liberty’s first drive of the game and immediately following up with a touchdown run from Matt Struck to take a 9-0 lead.

The Liberty responded with a touchdown to get on the board but still trailed 12-7 going into the second quarter.

From there, Salina turned up the heat, as Demarius Washington caught his second touchdown pass of the day from Charles McCullum to deliver the Liberty their first lead of the game.

That score kicked off a huge run for the Liberty, who scored 24 unanswered points to take a 31-18 lead into the locker room.

The third quarter belonged to the Storm as Southwest Kansas countered with 15 unanswered points of thier own to bring the game back within one possession.

Salina added an Aeden Johnson field goal to open the scoring in the fourth, but another Matt Struck touchdown run tied the game at 34 with just 4:16 to play.

After a missed Liberty field goal, the Storm were gifted an opportunity to take their first lead of the second half, but the Liberty defense stood tall, forcing a fumble near the goal line that Henry Kellogg scooped up to deliver Salina a 41-34 advantage in the closing seconds.

Two incompletions, a sack, and a desperation heave were all the Storm could muster on their final drive of the game, as the Liberty held on for dear life to a playoff victory.

The defense that Salina had hung it’s hat on all season long was immaculate once again, forcing four turnovers and three sacks in the win.

Charles McCullum had a great day under center as well, completing 47% of his passes for 164 yards, three touchdowns and only one pick.

The Liberty will square off with the league’s top seed in the Albany Firebirds (7-2) next Saturday at 1:30 CST.

On the other side of the bracket, the Nashville Kats will travel to Billings to take on the 2-seeded Outlaws after defeating decimating Orlando 62-32 in the quarterfinals.

Both games will be televised nationally on the CBS Sports Network.