ARYLE — There would be no comeback on this night for the Liberty Christian Warriors.
After come-from-behind victories in their first two games of the season, the TAPPS Division I Warriors were unable to rally from a 12-point halftime deficit and eventually fell to visiting Celina 54-30 on Friday night.
The Warriors (2-1), however, had their chances in the second half against the state’s No. 8-ranked Class 3A team.
The Bobcats (3-0), who led 33-21 entering the second half, took over on their 1-yard line early in the third quarter following a 56-yard punt by Cole Austin. On second-and-10, Celina quarterback Nathan Elliott rolled left to pass and was tackled in the end zone by three Liberty Christian defenders for a safety, cutting the Celina lead to 10.
Following the ensuing free kick, Liberty moved from midfield to the Celina 5 in four plays. On first-and-goal, Warriors quarterback Colby Moore’s pass to the right flat was tipped by a defender and intercepted by Jeff Sims at the 8.
On the very next play, Deshawn Davis broke through the right side for an 82-yard touchdown run that pushed the Bobcats lead to 40-23.
Liberty rallied again late in the period. Davis fumbled at the Celina 35, and Warriors linebacker Hunter Griffith scooped up the ball and ran down the sideline, pushing past the last defenders for a touchdown, and the Warriors again were within 10 points, 40-30.
The Warriors’ defense came up big again two plays later. Jon Aaron Howell intercepted an Elliott pass at the Celina 22 and returned it to the 2 on the first play of the fourth quarter.
But this time it was Celina’s defense that did the job. Howell rushed for 1 yard, Moore was stuffed at the line, and then Howell was stopped on a run up the middle. On fourth-and-goal at the 1, rather than go for a field goal with nine minutes left in the game, the Warriors went for the touchdown. Howell tried to run around the right side, but was tackled by Connor Torbert to end the drive.
Three plays later, on third-and-7 from the 7, Elliot threw a pass to Jarren Alexander on the left flat, and the receiver sidestepped two defenders and raced down the sideline for a 93-yard touchdown play that pushed Celina to a 47-30 lead with 7:55 remaining.
Liberty Christian turned the ball over on downs at its own 27 on the next series, and Celina closed out the scoring with Elliott’s 18-yard scoring strike to Luke Reeder.
The win was even more special for the Bobcats considering an emotional and heartbreaking start to the game. The first series of the game ended with Celina punting the ball away. During the kick coverage, Celina senior linebacker Austin Vaden was hurt on the play, an apparent injury to his left leg. He had to be transported to the hospital via an ambulance. He was alert as he was put on the stretcher and his teammates came over to offer support.
Celina 54, Liberty Christian 30
CL — Jarren Alexander 10 run (Jake Lykins kick)
LB — Colby Moore 43 run (Will McClain kick)
LB — Jordan Brown 46 pass from Colby Moore (Will McClain kick)
CL — Cash Conder 19 pass from Nathan Elliott
CL — Deshawn Davis 1 run
LB — Justus Lee 24 pass from Colby Moore (Cole Austin kick)
CL — Chase Marler 20 pass from Nathan Elliott (Jake Lykins kick)
CL — Nathan Elliott 3 run (Jake Lykins kick)
LB — 0 safety, ball carrier tackled in endzone
CL — Deshawn Davis 82 run (Jake Lykins kick)
LB — Hunter Griffith 35 fumble return (Cole Austin kick)
CL — Jarren Alexander 93 pass from Nathan Elliott (Jake Lykins kick)
CL — Luke Reeder 18 pass from Nathan Elliott (Jake Lykins kick)
Rushing — CL: Deshawn Davis 8-103, Jarren Alexander 5-34, Nathan Elliott 13-25, Cash Conder 4-13, Connor Torbert 2-10, Conner Pingleton 2-5, Morgon Robinson 1-5, Collin Schmid 2-4, John Urmin 2--5, LB: Colby Moore 12-116, JonAaron Howell 18-103, Ryan Vollenhals 2-4, Matt Marrs 2--1, Zach Keller 2--3.
Passing — CL: Nathan Elliott 10-23-2-220, Jarren Alexander 1-1-0-51, LB: Colby Moore 7-18-2-127.
Receiving — CL: Cash Conder 5-112, Jarren Alexander 1-93, Luke Reeder 2-35, Chase Marler 1-20, Collin Schmid 2-11, LB: Jordan Brown 2-55, Matt Marrs 2-33, Justus Lee 1-24, Cody Hughes 1-9, Danny David Linahan 1-6.