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Chargers roll to 11th Battle of Boulevard victory

Posted on Friday, September 8, 2017 at 3:54 pm


Liberty quarterback Jaelen Ray prepares to throw a pass during the victory over Poinciana. Photo/Martin Maddock

By Rick Pedone
Sports Editor
Liberty’s record remained spotless after the 11th edition of the Battle of the Boulevard on Thursday.
The host Chargers overwhelmed rival Poinciana, 43-7, with 501 total yards of offense to remain unbeaten (11-0) in the series.
Liberty (1-1) also earned its first win of the season while Poinciana fell to 1-2.
Mario Johnson caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jaelen Ray (10-17-256, 5 TDs) and ran 22 yards on a quarterback keeper for a fourth quarter score to help the high-powered Chargers offense.
Six different players scored touchdowns for Liberty.
“We’ve got a lot of speed, a lot of real quick guys,” first-year Coach Doug Gabriel said. “We need to limit our mistakes. I’ve said all along that if we can limit our mistakes, we’ve got a great team.”
The errors were many for Liberty, which had two touchdowns and a long kick return called back. The Chargers were flagged 15 times for 165 yards.
Those errors allowed scrappy Poinciana to hang close through the first half, thanks primarily to the scrambling ability of quarterback/running back Omar Elisis (13-88, 1 TD). Elisis, playing quarterback, ran through an opening in the Liberty line and sprinted 45 yards for a touchdown to make it 12-7 early in the second quarter. Liberty took a 12-0 first-quarter lead on a 26-yard touchdown strike from Ray to Richmael Auguston and a 3-yard run by Kenton Thelsume. Ray’s 40-yard pass to Johnson set up Thelsume’s TD.
With 26 seconds left in the first half, Ray found Johnson open on a slant for a 20-yard score and a 19-7 Liberty halftime lead.
Ray, who transferred from Osceola over the summer, said that the win was big for the Chargers because it got them back on track after a season-opening loss at South Lake two weeks earlier. The team had an open date Sept. 1.
“It’ll help us be more confident,” he said. Ray left the game in the fourth quarter and his foot was iced.
Johnson had four catches for 73 yards and a TD at the half, and Augustin had three grabs for 98 yards and a score. They were the only players with Liberty receptions in the first half, but the ball was spread around more in the third and fourth quarters.
Ray led the Chargers on a 12-play drive in the third period capped by his 32-yard pass to Perry King, making it 25-7.
Poinciana’s offense never got going after the intermission. The team did not get a first down until the issue was decided in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, Liberty piled on the yardage as Ray hit Rocci Berry on a 30-yard TD play and then connected with Kendrick Pierre from 32 yards for his fourth TD throw.
After Ray found King Perry for a 30-yard score, Mario Johnson and Donavin Johnson ran for TDs while filling in for Ray at quarterback.
Augustin said it is always satisfying to beat rival Poiniana.
“We came out knowing we could throw it,” he said. “The practices were longer this week.”
Poinciana Coach Ken Knapczyk told his team after the game that it must decide how it wants to respond to the loss.
“I’m disappointed, but I’m still proud of you,” he said. “This was a disappointment. We did not accomplish what we came here to do. The question is, what are you going to do about it?”
The game was moved to Thursday because of Hurricane Irma.
Liberty is scheduled to play at Harmony Friday in the 7A-5 district opener for both teams.
Poinciana visits Bishop Moore in 5A-13, pending the damage to Central Florida from the hurricane.