KELLER — Liberty Christian showed Friday at Keller ISD Stadium that its offense can put up points, but an early turnover put the Warriors in a hole they couldn’t quite dig out of against familiar nemesis Fort Worth Nolan Catholic, and they were eliminated 55-20 in the TAPPS Class 5A Division I semifinals.
“They are just very methodical and they don’t make a lot of mistakes,” Liberty coach Greg Price said. “They’re a very solid football team. They don’t make mistakes, and when we do it’s tough to beat a team like that.”
Liberty’s defense did well to limit Nolan’s first offensive possession to a punt, and its offense found its way into Nolan territory. Six plays and a Nolan penalty gave the Warriors prime field position at the 27-yard line, but senior quarterback Colby Moore was intercepted by Nolan linebacker Miles Murray — the only turnover of the game for either team — and the ball was returned 75 yards for a touchdown that gave the Vikings a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Murray jumped in front of a pass to the outside and was untouched as he outraced everyone into the end zone.
Nolan running back Luke Alves provided the necessary infrastructure for the Vikings’ offense with a 206-yard, four-touchdown performance on 29 attempts, and Nolan as a team rushed for 339 yards.
“We didn’t do a good enough job stopping the run,” Price said. “They obviously just did it all the way down the field. They run the ball, run the ball, run the ball and then they pop you with the pass. They did exactly what we thought they were going to do, but we didn’t do our part to stop them. We didn’t capitalize, and we punted too many times to keep up with them.”
Staggered by the quick change in fortunes with the Warriors driving, they succumbed to a quick 3-and-out on their next possession.
After Nolan’s first offensive possession went awry on undisciplined penalties and incompletions, the Vikings glued themselves to the ground game, amassing a 13-play, 74-yard drive — all on rushes — that was finished off by Alves’ 2-yard touchdown run and put Nolan ahead 14-0 with 25 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Warriors (9-4) again were stifled on their next drive, forced to punt to the Nolan 36-yard line. From there, the Vikings (9-4) went on an 11-play drive — this time with two passing completions — to claim a commanding 21-0 lead with 4:06 remaining in the first half.
The Warriors rebounded with an extended drive of their own.
After two incompletions, Moore and the Warriors converted a crucial fourth-and-9 when his pass deflected off receiver Hunter Griffith’s hands and into Cody Hughes’ hands at Nolan’s 23-yard line. Moore polished off the drive with a 1-yard quarterback keeper with 22 seconds left in the half.
“I thought Colby played a great game,” Price said. “He got sacked a couple times, but I thought he threw the ball really well. We were driving early and I thought we would take the lead, but of course they went the other way with it.”
The Warriors’ offense came out swinging to start the second half. Liberty needed only seven plays to draw within 24-14 as Moore found Griffith on a slant route for a 10-yard touchdown just under two minutes into the third quarter.
Nolan took longer than Liberty to score but answered nonetheless with more patient running, a few effective passes — including a key third-and-15 conversion — and another Alves touchdown, this time on a 6-yard run with 5:08 to play in the third quarter to make the Vikings’ lead 31-14.
Following another three-and-out by Liberty, the Vikings applied more pressure as they quickly ran the score to 38-14 on a six-play drive with Alves earning his fourth touchdown run of the night on a 5-yard carry.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Warriors used a Nolan pass interference call to reach the red zone, where Moore was able to find senior receiver Gavin Menichini for a 6-yard touchdown to inch Liberty within 38-20, but that would be all the points they could muster.
“I feel like we are taking steps to get a little bit further and further,” Price said. “We’re up against tough odds. They’ve probably got 500 more students than we do, so from that standpoint I feel like we are getting closer. This is the first time we’ve been to the semi-finals since we’ve been in Division I, but they’re a huge benchmark. Getting past these guys is a big part of it, but the fact that we are meeting them is the semifinals is just reinforcement that we’re heading in the right direction.”
Fort Worth Nolan 55, Liberty Christian 20
Fort Worth Nolan Catholic
NC — Miles Murray 75 interception return (Grant Muehlstein kick)
NC — Luke Alves 2 run (Grant Muehlstein kick)
NC — Luke Alves 3 run (Grant Muehlstein kick)
LB — Colby Moore 1 run (Cole Austin kick)
NC — Grant Muehlstein 42 FG
LB — Hunter Griffith 10 pass from Colby Moore (Cole Austin kick)
NC — Luke Alves 6 run (Grant Muehlstein kick)
NC — Luke Alves 5 run (Grant Muehlstein kick)
LB — Gavin Menichini 6 pass from Colby Moore (Colby Moore run failed)
NC — Grant Muehlstein 39 FG
NC — David Authier 16 run (Grant Muehlstein kick)
NC — Jacob Walden 4 run (Grant Muehlstein kick)
Rushing — LB: JonAaron Howell 4-35, Ryan Vollenhals 3-21, Colby Moore 17-19, Matt Marrs 1--2, NC: Luke Alves 29-206, David Authier 8-69, Ricardo Serna 3-39, Jacob Walden 6-30, Juan Piceno 2--1, Team Stat 1--4.
Passing — LB: Colby Moore 18-44-1-228, NH: Jacob Walden 5-8-0-78.
Receiving — LB: Cody Hughes 5-66, Danny David Linahan 3-49, Drew Hunnicutt 4-43, Jordan Brown 2-30, Gavin Menichini 2-22, Hunter Griffith 2-18, NC: Jeremy LaGroue 1-26, Luke Alves 1-21, David Authier 2-19, Patrick Rich 1-12.