Liberty is right where it wants to be to kick off its first season of varsity football. Formerly known as Lee High, Liberty brought back football two years ago with junior varsity play in 2019 and 2020.
The Class 4A Patriots opened their varsity debut season with a 49-7 victory over Class 1A White Castle on Saturday night.
Liberty got big games from junior leaders — quarterback Khylan Gross, running back Kaleb Jackson and wide receiver/defensive back Richard McKneely. Gross completed 8 of 12 passes for 152 yards and also rushed six times for 120 yards and a TD.
Jackson had scoring runs of 80, 50, 47, 13 and 15 yards and gained 260 yards on nine carries. McKneely had four catches for 43 yards and scored on a 15-yard pass from Gross.
In 2020, Liberty's junior varsity squad went 1-2 against varsity teams and was 5-0 vs. other JV teams. The Saturday win followed a two-week layoff since a jamboree win over McKinley.
"I was surprised after a long layoff without practice (11 days) due to the storm that we were able to put up 49 points in our first varsity game as a program," Liberty coach Drey Trosclair said. "The offense really seemed to gel and did a good job of not ever getting behind the chains. We only punted twice."
Liberty's defense had its moments too. The Patriots recovered three fumbles, and Keelan Reason had an interception. Derrin Bailey, Darrion Dunn and Jordan Okoye had the fumble recoveries. McKneely and Gabriel Ware had sacks.
"The defense played well," Trosclair said. "I definitely think we need to tackle better in the coming weeks. Our linebacker core of Dylan Aubert, Jordan Okoye and Devin Wilson played well. Our strong safety Derrin Bailey continues to play well."
Liberty of District 7-4A hosts another District 7-1A team this week — East Iberville on Friday at Olympia Stadium.
"I'd say the strength of our team is how competitive we are on a daily basis," Trosclair said. "The guys are always battling against each other on the practice field, and that transitions really well to competing on Friday nights. These guys really enjoy being around each other."
Trosclair said his team can improve in all three phases of the game. He said the offense needs to be more physical up front and sustain blocks longer. He said the defense needs to be more disciplined and avoid penalties.
"There was definitely some concern about how the kids would handle that step up in competition on a weekly basis," Trosclair said. "I think we are right on schedule. We have been preparing for these moments going on three years now."
Three days, big games
Pick a day — Thursday through Saturday — and chances are, there will be an intriguing high school football game to see.
The Dunham School (1-1) of Class 2A hosts 3A University (2-0) in a matchup of top teams Thursday night. The all-5A matchup of Brother Martin (0-0) vs. East Ascension (0-1) at Dutchtown is also Thursday.
Warren Easton (0-0) at Scotlandville (1-0) and a District 7-3A game that sends West Feliciana (1-1, 1-0) to Brusly (2-0, 1-0) are among the games to watch.
Zachary (2-0) travels to take on St. Augustine at Tad Gormley Stadium Saturday night.
Second chance for a game
Ascension Christian and Ben Franklin were originally scheduled to play Week 2, but Hurricane Ida changed that.
Thanks to the continuing schedule shuffle caused by COVID-19 issues and Ida, the teams are now set to play this week. ACH (0-1) of District 7-1A will host Ben Franklin of 11-4A at 7 p.m. Friday.