ARGYLE — Every time Springtown made what seemed to be a big, game-changing play in Friday’s season opener, Liberty Christian answered.
After a sleepy, scoreless first quarter erupted into an electric offensive showdown, it seemed the Porcupines had struck the final blow with just more than a minute remaining when Ryan Snow capped off his big night with a 54-yard catch-and-run on a busted coverage in the flat to give Springtown a four-point lead.
But the Warriors were not finished and got the last laugh, going 68 yards in 23 seconds to win a three-and-a-half-hour game, 44-41, thanks to a 12-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Drew Hunnicutt to Danny David Linahan, their second scoring hookup of the night.
Hunnicutt got the starting nod at quarterback because Colby Moore, who transferred to Liberty Christian from Springtown prior to the school year, was injured with a hairline fracture in a vertebra.
Hunnicutt was more than up for the task, as he went 18-for-34 through the air for 278 yards and three touchdowns, including the one in the final seconds that was set up by a nicely lofted pass to Hunter Griffith for a 37-yard gain with under a minute to play.
Snow finished the night with 31 carries for 216 yards for Springtown, pulling the Porcupines within a touchdown late in the third quarter on an 89-yard touchdown run after Liberty had led by as many as 21 points early in the second half.
But every time Snow had a big play for the Porcupines, Liberty Christian senior JonAaron Howell matched him, and then some.
The versatile threat, who only played in crucial moments at running back as the team’s best defensive back, finished the night with 16 carries for 121 yards and two touchdowns while showing his explosiveness on a 73-yard run that was negated by a holding penalty in the first half.
He also made a big impact defensively when he followed his touchdown run to start the second half with a 35-yard interception return for another score on Springtown’s ensuing possession, giving the Warriors four touchdowns over a span of less than five minutes.
The first two of those touchdowns, which came in the closing minutes of the first half, erased an early Liberty Christian deficit.
Howell scored on a 6-yard touchdown run to put the Warriors up 14-13, and then the defense forced a three-and-out.
The punt was returned 58 yards to the Springtown 16-yard line by Justus Lee, a sophomore wide receiver and defensive back who added a 73-yard reception to set up Howell’s second touchdown run. On the Warriors’ ensuing snap after the big punt return, Hunnicutt found Linahan for a 14-yard touchdown and a 14-point swing in just more than a minute.
Howell made another big defensive play on fourth-and-goal from the Warriors’ 1-yard line when Snow took a handoff, bounced outside and was corralled by Howell and his younger brother, Kyleb, to preserve a 34-27 Liberty Christian lead early in the fourth quarter.
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872 and via Twitter at @aboedeker.
Liberty Christian 44, Springtown 41
S -- Dillon Springfield 8 pass from Landry Turner (kick failed), 10:02
LC – Kyleb Howell 6 pass from Drew Hunnicutt (Cole Austin kick), 7:42
S – Springfield 2 pass from Turner (Mateo Herrera kick), 5:27
LC – JonAaron Howell 6 run (Austin kick), 2:21
LC – Danny David Linahan 14 pass from Hunnicutt (Austin kick), 1:09
LC – JonAaron Howell 2 run (Austin kick), 10:15
LC – JonAaron Howell 35 interception return (kick failed), 9:37
S – Ryan Hester 51 pass from Turner (Herrera kick), 5:18
S – Ryan Snow 89 run (Herrera kick), 3:33
S – Ricardo Reynoso 19 fumble return (Herrera kick), 9:07
LC – Austin 30 field goal, 2:12
S – Snow 54 pass from Turner (Herrera kick), 1:10
LC – Linahan 12 pass from Hunnicutt (Austin kick), 0:37
Rushing: S – Ryan Snow 31-216, Landry Turner 8-(-2), Ricardo Reynoso 1-14, Dillon Springfield 1-12. LC – JonAaron Howell 16-121, Drew Hunnicutt 10-58, Matt Marrs 4-16, Dakota Sanchez 3-(-3), Ryan Vollenhals 4-22, Hugh Jeffery 1-8, Cole Irwin 1-0.
Passing: S – Landry Turner 19-43-2-282, Brooks Pennington 1-1-0-14. LC – Drew Hunnicutt 18-34-0-278.
Receiving: S – Ryan Hester 3-80, Dylan Ray 7-52, Caleb Whiteman 3-21, Dillon Springfield 5-75, Landry Turner 1-14, Ryan Snow 1-54. LC – Danny David Linahan 3-39, JonAaron Howell 3-28, Gavin Menichini 4-51, Kyleb Howell 1-6, Justus Lee 1-73, Cody Hughes 2-26, Hugh Jeffery 1-0, Hunter Griffith 3-55.