It was exciting and it was close, but in the end, it was the same old story as the Liberty Chargers scored three second half touchdowns to defeat Poinciana, 22-7, in the “Battle of the Boulevards.”
It marked the 14th consecutive time in 14 attempts that the Chargers have come out on top in the series.
“This game means so much for both teams,” Liberty Head Coach Brandon Pennington said. “Give Poinciana and Coach (Randy) Beeken a lot of credit. They played incredibly hard and gave us all we wanted.”
The Chargers took the opening kickoff and drove down to the Poinciana 15, but turned the ball over on downs. After an interception, they once again drove inside the Eagles red zone, but failed to punch it in as the first quarter ended in a scoreless tie.
Liberty would finally get on the board at the 5:40 mark of the second quarter, when Manny Gonzalez booted a 24-yard field goal. But Poinciana needed just three plays to answer. After a short kickoff, Michael Tovine hit Alex Quinones on a 17-yard pass and Jalen Jarrett broke loose up the middle on a 39-yard touchdown run as the Eagles grabbed a 7-3 lead.
The score remained the same until late in third quarter before Chargers quarterback John Smith directed three touchdown drives to put the game away. Smith would account for 86 yards on the first scoring drive, passing 45 yards and rushing for 41. He capped the drive on a five-yard run to make it 9-7 with 4:21 remaining in the third quarter.
After driving deep into Charger territory, Poinciana had a chance to take the lead early in the fourth period, but Rhys Marsh’s 41-yard field goal attempt sailed just wide left. Smith would then cap off an 8-play, 80-yard march with a four-yard touchdown pass to Mekhi Jean-Baptiste to up the lead to 16-7.
After holding on downs, Smith broke loose on a 23-yard run and then hit Shannon Lloyd on 24-yard pass to the Eagles’ 1-yard line. From there, Ellos Delva scored to put the game away.
It was not a tidy game on either side. Poinciana was whistled for 12 penalties for 84 yards; Liberty committed 11 infractions for 110 yards.
Offensively, Smith was 13 of 28 for 270 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception, and also rushed for 59 yards on 19 carries. Tovine was 10 of 30 for 142 yards and an interception. Each quarterback was sacked four times.
Liberty (2-4) hosts Celebration (1-2) next week; while Poinciana (1-5) travels to Gateway (0-4).
In other action involving county teams, Harmony (3-3) jumped out to a 28-0 lead and then had to hang on to defeat New Smyrna Beach, 28-21, to record their third straight win.
Sophomore running backs Tyler Emans and Cooper Richards again led the way for the Longhorns. Emans rushed 12 times for 155 yards and four touchdowns; while Richards tallied 119 yards on 21 carries. Jaun Gomez had a monster night with 21 tackles; Brayden Adams had nine tackles and interception. The Longhorns (3-3) play at Lake Brantley (4-3) on Friday night.
The St. Cloud Bulldogs avenged a 2019 regular season-closing defeat to Victory Christian Academy by traveling to Lakeland and coming away with a 29-7 win. The Bulldogs needed a win last year in their final game to make the playoffs, but were thwarted by the Storm, 30-6, who would then go all the way to the Class 2A State championship game.
This time, it was the Bulldogs that dominated on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Quarterback Garhett King completed 13 of 20 passes for 200 yards, firing touchdown passes to Jack Rilling and Anthony Gonzalez. Running back Patrick Forsyth had a huge night with 227 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns on 38 carries. Kwasi Crudup and Joe Clukey had interceptions for the Bulldog defense. St. Cloud (4-2) hosts Akelynn Christian Academy on Friday.
Tohopekaliga (3-3) won for the third time in four games – defeating Celebration (1-3) by a 21-12 score; while Gateway (0-4) was idle. Toho hosts Haines City this Friday.