Prior to Saturday’s highly anticipated showdown with Duke City, the Salina Liberty edged Sioux City the previous week with a safety in the last 15 seconds.
The Liberty used that clutch gene once again.
Quarterback Andrew Jackson plunged into the end zone with 15 seconds left, the defense gave up no points after the first possession of the second half, and the Liberty roared back to stun the defending CIF champion Gladiators, 29-22, at the Tony’s Pizza Events Center. Salina scored 22 unanswered points for its third straight win, improving to 4-2.
Duke City (3-3) started the third period with a touchdown pass from Donavan Porterie to Darryl Stonum, extending the lead to 22-7 with 10:26 left. Salina struck back with a 24-yard TD pass by Jackson to receiver Tyler Jones, trimming the margin to 22-14.
Defensive back Hendrick Harper set up the next score by the Liberty. After Harper’s interception, running back Tracy Brooks found the goal line with a one-yard run, pulling the Liberty to 22-21.
The defense would continue to make clutch plays down the stretch. Naiquan Thomas picked off another Porterie throw on the ensuing possession. Salina settled for a field goal to try to take the lead, but Jimmy Allen misfired with 5:56 to play.
Salina’s brick wall helped Allen, limiting the Gladiators to a field goal try that was ultimately missed, setting up the comeback.
The Liberty defense forced three interceptions, forced a fumble, and held Duke City to its lowest point total of the season. Salina returns to action on Saturday to face Amarillo in Texas.