Homecomings are supposed to be sure-thing victories for the home team, but Mountain View/Birch Tree Liberty went as far as setting a new school point-total record in their 70-0 thumping of SCA rival Willow Springs on Friday night.
Willow Springs entered the game with a 2-2 record with their losses coming to quality teams in Reeds Spring and Mtn. Grove. But the Bears, who had scored at least 31 points or more in each of their first four games, got shut-out by Liberty, who led 50-0 by the half. That’s right…50-0.
After halting a long Willow Springs drive on their own 20 on the Bears opening drive, Liberty moved 80 yards on their opening possession with the all-state connection of quarterback Jaelon Acklin to James Denton covering the final 30-yards.
Moments later, Willow Springs, who had little margin for error, made the first of many with an interception near midfield by Denton returned for a touchdown. And although the Eagles missed both of their first two extra points, they seemed safely in control at 12-0.
A short Bear punt left Mtn. Grove with only 10 yards to go for their next touchdown with Bryan Porter going in from four yards out.
And after Jaelon Acklin’s 23 yard quarterback keeper increased the lead to 28-0, another short Willow Springs punt left Liberty with just five yards to go to score again as Acklin kept again for a 36-0 lead.
After Acklin passed to his brother Jansen for another touchdown, Liberty added its final score before the half when Willow Springs mishandled another punt, the kick was blocked, and senior defensive lineman David Gatlin took it in for his first-ever touchdown that set off a wild celebration among the Eagle players. The reason? Ironically, Gatlin had talked about pulling off such a feat earlier in the day.
“We were at the lunch table today and he was talking about how badly he wanted to score a touchdown,” Jaelon Acklin explained. “Whenever he blocked that punt and took it down to score I was going crazy. I was so happy for him.”
“I just happen to get hold of it and starting running,” Gatlin recalled. “All I could think about was getting across that line and scoring. It’s my first one ever. I couldn’t ask for a better senior homecoming.”
Liberty would add 20 second half points for the 70-0 final. The Eagles totaled 381 yards with Jaelon Acklin rushing for 52 yards and two touchdowns and completing 9-15 passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns. He said that setting the single-game point total record was a goal for the team.
“Last year we won 69-0 against Houston and we were one-point away,” he said. “ This year we finally got the monkey off our back and got the point-record for our school.”
But despite their 5-0 start and number two ranking in Class 2 in the state poll, Liberty has one problem lurking down the road. Their Class 2, District 3 includes a number of good teams including their opponent next week, Mtn. Grove, plus the elephant in the room—Lamar, the number one team in the state and the two-time defending state champion that looks to be even stronger this season. Liberty doesn’t meet Lamar in the regular season, but knows that they could face the mighty Tigers in the post-season.
“We lost by like 49 points to them last year (in the play-offs),” Jaelon Acklin recalled. “But we’re trying to close that gap every single day. We’re trying to win the day so we can give them the best game we can.”
“A lot of people say they’re just outright better than us,” Liberty head coach Darin Acklin said. “And last year they were. “We’re trying to make-up for that Monday-Thursday in practice and then trying to make adjustments on Friday to try and get better. So we’re working every day. They set the bar, and we’re trying to get that good.”
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