By TYLER HENRY
Salina Post contributor
The Salina Liberty will be headed back to their third consecutive Champions Bowl after rounding up the Outlaws in a 26-14 defensive duel.
Despite posting their second-lowest scoring mark of the season, Salina’s defense shined, blanking Billings through three and holding off a late comeback effort in the final frame.
“I liked our defense all the way until the fourth quarter,” Liberty HC Heron O’Neal said. “We’ve been through a lot this season but we got right back to where we said we were going to be, now we have to bring it home.”
With an upset in Sioux City the stage is set for a Champions Bowl rematch between the Liberty and Beef in Salina next week, a game the Liberty wasted no time shifting their attention to.
“We’re laser-focused and we were smiling but nobody was celebrating in that locker room,” O’Neal said. “We’re ready for Omaha and we know it’s going to be a war.”
Salina struck for a score in each of the first three quarters with Demarius Washington and Fast Ed Smith hauling in touchdown catches from Kilgo in the first and second before Tracy Brooks punched in a score on the ground in the third to put the Liberty up 20-0.
Billings outgained Salina in total offense but the Liberty defense stood tall, with two huge fourth-down stops and a fumble recovery on the night.
The Outlaws would tally two touchdowns of their own in the fourth thanks to running back D’Nerius Antione but it proved to be too little too late as the Liberty cruised to the semifinal victory.
Salina has won six of their last seven games, with the lone loss coming in a 14-11 stalemate in Omaha. To win their first-ever title, the Liberty know that they must improve early and often on offense.
“I take the way we execute upon myself and this was a horrible game in my eyes,” Salina QB Javin Kilgo said. “Regardless of what the scoreboard says we have a lot to clean up this week and we’ll be hitting it hard.”
The season finale will be played at the Tony’s Pizza Events Center on Saturday, June 25th.