LIBERTY - After playing the first half tied, Brandon Martin put the Leopards ahead for good in the third quarter and gave Liberty the All-American Conference, White Division win against Struthers on Sept. 18, 13-7.
Friday's game at Salem was not completed prior to press time.
Charles Perdue put Liberty on the board in the first quarter with a 1-yard run. Struthers tied it later in the first as Jermaine Brooks caught a 72 yard TD?pass.
But Martin came through in the third, punching it in from a yard out.
CAMPBELL - Four fumbles by Liberty aided Campbell in a 14-6 upset victory over Liberty on Sept. 11.
The Red Devils (2-1) scored on a 36-yard pass from Lester Hughes to Alex Lopez with 7 minutes left in the first quarter. The Red Devils passed for 134 yards compared to just 16 by Liberty.
Campbell took a 14-0 lead when Nick Golec scored on a 3-yard run midway through the third quarter. That capped an 11-play, 62-yard drive that took up 5 minutes, 11 seconds.
Liberty, which fumbled twice inside Campbell's 10-yard line, cut the lead to 14-6 when Charles Perdue scored on a 3-yard run.
LIBERTY - It was a four-point game late in the third quarter as Liberty and Niles each looked for that one play, one player, to shift momentum to its side.
Enter Anthony Gutierrez.
In just a short period of time, the Liberty senior reasserted himself as one of the premier linebackers in the area and set the tone for the Leopards' victory on Sept. 4.
After Liberty failed on a fourth-down conversion, the Red Dragons got the ball at their own 29. Gutierrez made a tackle for a 6-yard loss on first down, a tackle for a 5-yard loss on second down and then picked off a pass to set up a Liberty touchdown. On Niles' next possession, he recovered a fumble at the Dragon 44. The Leopards would score again to open up a 17-point lead and all but seal the win.
"I give credit to our tackles, they keep players off me," said the 5-foot-10, 183-pound Gutierrez. "I have to give credit to our coaches also because we rotate a lot and they keep us fresh the whole game."
The Leopards (2-0) amassed 312 rushing yards behind an offensive line which dominated play. Charles Perdue ran 11 times for 132 yards, Robert Smith-Harris 19 times for 109, and Brandon Martin nine times for 63. Yet despite the powerful ground attack the end result could have been different were it not for Gutierrez.
"He was an all-conference player last year," said Liberty coach Jeff Whittaker. "He and (linebacker Antonio Kinard) are the heart of our defense. We expect them to make plays like that. If they don't make those kind of plays, we're in trouble."
Kinard, a Michigan recruit, made a huge play on the other side of the football moments after Gutierrez' interception. On fourth-and-eight he caught a 24-yard pass from Nick Mattocks which gave Liberty a 16-6 lead. After Gutierrez' fumble recovery Smith-Harris broke off a 34-yard run to set up his score from a yard out.
"Our defense played a good bend-but-don't-break defense for two quarters," said Niles coach Brad Yeager after his team dropped to 1-1. "Coach Whitt does a nice job over there. He has a simple scheme, the kids buy into it, and the athletes execute it."
Yeager perfectly described how his defense performed in the first half. The Leopards had 142 rushing yards in the first two quarters to Niles' negative 4. Yet the only score of the half was a 26-yard field goal by Chad Nasci.
"Niles really got into our heads in the first half," Gutierrez said. "We had to get our minds right at halftime."
LIBERTY - Liberty coach Jeff Whittaker wondered how the season would piecemeal together after the losses of Fitzgerald Toussaint and Isaiah Bell, who are both at the University of Michigan.
Aug. 28, 6-foot, 168-pound senior DeAndrey Abron answered some of those queries in Liberty's opening night victory over East at W.S. Guy Stadium.
Abron had 71-yard punt return for a touchdown with 43 seconds left in the third quarter, putting the Leopards up 17-0. He added a 49-yard reverse touchdown run in the second quarter.
"He made some big plays for us, no doubt about it," Liberty coach Jeff Whittaker said. "He's a good athlete, explosive. We're excited about him, but we have to get some of those other weapons going as well."
On the punt return, Abron received a much-needed block from Nico Minniti on the East 40. Minniti leveled a Panthers player near the Liberty sideline, allowing enough of a hole for Abron to break free for the touchdown.
"That was a big-time play right there," Whittaker said. "It was a nice, clean hit. It was a helluva hit. And, it was a great job."
"When I got to the sidelines, everybody was telling me about it," said Abron, who had five carries for 66 yards and touchdown, along with three receptions for 78 yards. "I'm just going to have to watch it on film so I can see how great it was."
That punt return seemingly put the game out of reach for East.
"That punt return broke our back," East coach Brian Shaner said.