Liberty Dominate Bandits in Battle of Unbeatens

Over the years, the rivalry between the Salina Liberty and Sioux City Bandits featured heated battles decided by a handful of points.

That was not the case Saturday night.

Quarterback Tyrie Adams threw for four touchdowns, three to receiver Ed Smith, the defense forced three turnovers, and the Liberty pummeled the Bandits, 53-24 at the Tony’s Pizza Events Center. Salina improved to 5-0 while Sioux City fell to 3-1.

The Bandits received the opening kick and drove right down the field. Receiver Fred Bruno broke free in the open field and scored on an 18-run run to give Sioux City an early 6-0 advantage. Salina responded with a 16-yard TD connection, featuring Adams and Smith.

Both teams failed to score for the remainder of the first. Salina took control of the game by outscoring Sioux City 20-0.

Following a blocked field goal by Salina’s Travis Taylor, Adams turned to Smith for a long pass near the wall. Smith jumped in the air, grabbed the ball, and flipped into the pit area. The result was a 29-yard catch, setting up a two-yard TD plunge for tailback Tracy Brooks.

Sioux City’s next drive ended with a fumble, recovered by rookie Shaq Bradford. Moments later, running back Dominic Carson sniffed out the endzone, scampering past the goal line for a five-yard score.

Salina had a chance to score with under a minute left in the half, but Adams threw an interception. Salina defensive back Dontra Matthews gave the ball back to the Liberty after stripped receiver William Johnson as the Sioux City 23-yard line.

The Liberty had just 10 seconds left before intermission. Rookie Adams followed Smith’s lead from earlier in the half, making a sensational play. Adams scrambled out of the backfield, roamed to the 15, and hit a defender with a spin move, propelling him into the endzone for a 23-yard TD with two seconds left.

Salina let Sioux City back into the game with a fumble to start the second half. Tailback Kamal Cash ran past the goal line, slicing the margin to 26-14.

The Liberty didn’t waver. Adams found Smith again, this time on a 38-yard touchdown. After a turnover on downs, Adams hooked up with Smith once more, the latest on a 19-yard score, giving Salina a 40-14 cushion with 7:27 remaining in the third.

Adams was 10-of-15 passing for 169 yards and four touchdowns. He ran for an additional 27 yards and a score. Smith’s monster night ended with five receptions for 114 yards and three scores.

Defensively, Naiquan Thomas led the Liberty with 11 tackles, two for loss. Matthews recorded three tackles, one for loss, an interception, and forced a fumble.

The Liberty have a bye week before heading to Dodge City to face the Law on May 8. Then, Salina has a rematch with Sioux City up in Iowa on May 15.