LIBERTY CENTER — Two-straight meetings with unbeaten, state-ranked squads, two wins for Liberty Cente,r with the Tigers’ 39-36 win over fourth-ranked Archbold Friday in Northwest Ohio Athletic League play at Bluestreaks Stadium.
LC coach Casey Mohler said he hopes the stretch, which includes a 35-29 win over Wauseon last week, gives his team confidence moving forward.
“I think this affirms a lot of what we are trying to do,” Mohler said. “This is a group that is starting to believe in itself, but we have to keep working, because our schedule is still daunting moving forward. It does feel nice to get a win like this, though.”
Archbold kicked off the scoring with 4:55 remaining in the first quarter when DJ Newman found Antonio Cruz for a five-yard score.
The Tigers tried to answer on the next drive, working the ball to the Archbold 31 before failing to convert a fourth-and-21 situation, giving the ball back to the Bluestreaks.
Newman threw for his second touchdown of the half on the first play of the second quarter, nailing Brandon Taylor for a 27-yard score, but Liberty Center responded on the next play from scrimmage, as Camden Krugh floated a ball to a wide-open Trent Murdock, who took it 64 yards to the house with 11:35 left before halftime.
“I think that Trent is, in my opinion, the best tight end around,” Mohler said. “He’s a great athlete. We have a lot of trust in him, and Cam is someone we think can get him the ball. He did a great job of that tonight.”
Newman capped a seven-play, 72-yard drive with an eight-yard scamper for the score to push the Bluestreaks back up two scores.
Four plays later, the Krugh-to-Murdock connection struck again, this time for a 74-yard touchdown. The point-after attempt failed, and the Tigers pulled within eight.
After forcing an Archbold punt, The Tigers took the ball 57 yards in four plays, with a 27-yard run from Max Phillips setting up a 26-yard score from Zach Bowers to give LC its first lead at 21-19 after the two-point conversion try was successful.
“I just told the guys not to panic,” Mohler said of his team overcoming the early deficit. “We wanted to continue to play hard and not make any major adjustments.”
Connor Keller picked off Newman on the next play from scrimmage, sparking a six-play, 47-yard drive that Krugh finished with a one-yard quarterback sneak to put the Tigers up 25-21, a score that held into the break.
Krugh tossed his third score of the game on the first drive of the second half, hitting Alex Righi from eight out to cap an 11-play, 63-yard drive and put the Tigers up 32-21.
After trading punts, Caleb Hogrefe scored a three-yard touchdown out of the Wildcat formation to pull the Bluestreaks to within 32-29 with 9:42 remaining in the game, but the Tigers found the space they needed on the ground on the next drive.
Bowers broke off right edge, bouncing to the outside for a 21-yard touchdown with 3:57 on the clock, putting LC up 39-39 and sending Archbold fans for the exits.
“We know what we are going to get out of Zach,” Mohler said. “He is going to run hard on every down. I think we also got some great runs from Max Phillips, but a lot of the credit has to go up front to the offensive line, because they were great tonight.”
Righi got the ball back for the Tigers with an interception on the second Archbold play on the ensuing drive, allowing Liberty Center to take time off the clock before the Streaks’ final drive, which finished with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Newman to Zimmerman with one second left.
The kickoff went into the endzone, and Krugh took a knee to seal the win for LC.
Krugh finished with 242 yards through the air, completing nine of 14 passes for three scores. Murdock led the Tigers’ receiving corps with three catches for 163 yards and two scores, while Bowers (28) and Righi (25) each pulled in more than 20 yards.
Bowers ran for two scores and and 123 yards on 19 carries, while Phillips took the ball 26 times for 104 yards.
“We made some plays,” Mohler said. “We got some gains on offense and got some interceptions to thwart some drives. That kind of built some momentum for us.”
Newman finished with 227 yards through the air, completing 19 of 38 passes with three touchdowns and two interceptions. He also led the team on the ground with 87 yards on 16 touches, while Hogrefe scored one touchdown, rushing 11 times for 68 yards.
Cruz and Zimmerman each pulled in a team-high five catches, with Cruz gaining 37 yards and Zimmerman 72. Both players caught one touchdown, while Taylor also caught a score to go along with four catches and 65 yards.
“That’s a great team on that side,” Archbold coach David Dominique said after the game. “That’s a well-coached team. They made some plays and really took advantage of some mistakes. We hurt ourselves with those at times, and they made us pay. Give them a lot of credit, because you have to tip your cap to a team like that.”
Liberty Center (6-0, 3-0 NWOAL) travels to face Swanton Friday, while Archbold (5-1, 2-1 NWOAL) travels to face Delta.