It started out tough for Richmond Hill and quickly snowballed as powerful Liberty County rolled to a 53-14 win at Wildcat Stadium in a nonregion game to end the regular season.
Wildcat quarterback Brian Hughes fumbled on the third play of his team’s first possession. National standout Richard LeCounte recovered and ran the ball in 30 yards to put the Panthers (7-3) on top 7-0 early.
After a three-and-out for Richmond Hill (3-7), Liberty County came back with a quick strike on offense, with quarterback Jaalon Frazier hooking up with Jacquez Williams for a 46-yard touchdown strike.
The Panthers hit pay dirt again on their next possession, this time capped by a 60-yard scamper by Elisha Polite. With the missed extra point, Liberty County’s lead was 20-0 after the first quarter.
One issue that plagued Richmond Hill throughout the game, leading to the many points Liberty County scored, was missed tackles.
"We'll look back at the season and learn from our mistakes,” Wildcat coach Matt LeZotte said. "Liberty County has a very good team. They played hard."
In the second quarter, the pummeling continued. LeCounte ran it in from 23 yards out, and a two-point conversion extended the Panthers’ lead to 28-0. On the next possession, Williams had another long run, 47 yards, for yet another Panther TD.
Richmond Hill responded with a scoring drive of its own, capped by a 3-yard TD run by Maurice Smith to cut the Panthers’ margin to 35-7.
But Liberty County returned the favor, with LeCount tossing a 28-yard pass to Williams. At halftime, the Panthers were up 41-7.
Even with that difficult first half, LeZotte was proud of his team.
"There was no quit in these guys at halftime,” he said. “They were determined to keep playing hard.”
And they did. Ronald Fuselier stopped a would-be scoring drive with an interception. Then Hughes scrambled 70 yards into the end zone to give the Wildcats life and cut Liberty’s lead to 41-14.
The Panthers would have no part of that, though. They quickly quelled the uprising with another scoring drive, capped by a 3-yard run by Polite. After missing the two-point conversion, Liberty County ended the third quarter up 47-14.
The Panthers added one more score in the fourth quarter, with their familiar stars hooking up again, this time on a 25-yard TD pass from LeCounte to Williams to give Liberty County the final 53-14 margin.
The Wildcats’ season is over. They took a small step forward this year, finishing with one more win than last year. LeZotte said he hopes to build on the foundation established this year for future success.
"We'll work hard during the offseason and get better,” he said. “I'm very proud of these guys."