Salina Liberty drops decision of indoor soccer champions in Billings

An inspired defensive effort wasn’t enough for the shorthanded Salina Liberty on Sunday night at the end of their 1 p.m. road trip to Billings, Montana.

The Liberty only managed a single second-half touchdown against an equally strong Billings defense as they fell from the ranks of undefeated indoor football champions with a 42-34 loss to the expansion Outlaws at the First Interstate Arena.

Billings took the lead for good on Charles McCullum’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Tyron Laughinghouse with 3 minutes and 17 seconds left, then sealed the win on Jeff Luc’s 45-yard interception return at 1 :58. The Liberty finally arrived in the end zone with 58 seconds left, but it wasn’t enough.

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“It was a tough offensive (game) for us in the second half, absolutely,” said Liberty offensive coordinator George Martinez, who served as interim head coach in Heron O’Neal’s absence. “Give credit where credit is due. They made some adjustments at half-time and we didn’t make as many good adjustments.

“Our defense played a hell of a game in the second half. It was one of the best defensive performances I’ve ever seen in indoor football, but so was theirs.”

With the victory, their first ever in the CIF, the Outlaws tied their record at 1-1, while the Liberty fell to 2-1 in the league and 3-1 on aggregate.

The Liberty were without head coach O’Neal, plus three starters — offensive lineman Steven Fluker and defensive backs Dontra Matthews and Dewayne Autrey — who served the first of their two-game league suspensions following a a pregame brawl with Omaha Beef on March 26. in Saline.

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After a home and away first half that saw the Liberty tie the game at 28 on a 6-yard touchdown from Tyrie Adams and Michael Pursley point after with 15 seconds left, the defenses took control after intermission.

Billings got the ball to start the second half and scored the first and the goal at the Salina 6-yard line, but the Liberty escaped unscathed when the drive stalled at 3 and the Outlaws missed a 20-yard field goal try.

After Liberty turned the ball over near midfield on their first possession of the half, the defense again made another save inside their 10-yard line on an interception from Evan Ray in the end zone.

Billings finally broke through with a 4 1/2 minute drive in the fourth quarter when McCullum found Laughinghouse in the right back corner of the end zone and Luke Daly kicked in the extra point for a 35-28 lead.

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The Liberty got a big kickoff return from Jarrell Kelly at the Billings 6-yard line and running back Tristan Gould carried to 2 on first down. But on the next play, Adams was hit immediately as he attempted a pass and the ball landed in the hands of Luc, who rolled it back over 45 yards to make it 42- 28.

The Liberty recovered the ball and scored on Adams’ 11-yard run with less than a minute left, but Billings recovered the ensuing inbound kick and ran out of time.

With Adams under constant pressure, the Liberty struggled in the passing game all night but had some success in the running game with fullbacks Tre Griffin and Tristan Gould sharing most of the workload.

Griffin ran for two touchdowns in the first half and Adams also carried for a pair of scores.

“They made some defensive adjustments and I couldn’t find enough elements to help my team counter,” Martinez said. “My athletes gave me 100% throughout the game.

“We could have run the ball a bit more and that could have changed the result. They stopped us several times.”

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The Liberty scored on the first drive of the game on a 7-yard run from Griffin and then got a defensive save, but on their next possession Adams took a base hit near his own goal line and Dylan Donahue got it. recovered the fumble in the end zone for the first. of Billings’ two defensive scores.

Adams had a 27-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Love on the final play of the first quarter to put the Liberty up 14-7, but McCullum’s 24-yard and 28-yard touchdown strikes to Garry Grown put Billings ahead for the first time. , 21-14.

No statistics were provided by the CIF.

The Liberty return home next Saturday for a 6:35 p.m. game against Sioux City at Tony’s Pizza Events Center. The Bandits are the only team remaining undefeated in the league at 3-0.

“It was the first time since our first game four years ago” that Liberty’s offense had been stopped, Martinez said. “But we’re going to grow from that.

“We’ll come back on Monday and get to work on Sioux City and we’ll be better.”

BILLINGS OUTLAWS 42, SALINA LIBERTY 34

Salina;14;14;0;14;—;42

Billing;7;21;0;6;—;34

first quarter

S—Griffin 7 run (Pursley kick), 11:40

B—Donahue fumble recovered in end zone (Daly kick), 3:00

S—Love 27 pass from Adams (Pursley kick), 0:00

second quarter

B—Brown 24 McCullum pass (Daly kick), 12:15

B—Brown 28 McCullum pass (Daly kick), 8:14

S—Griffin 2 run (Pursley kick), 4:53

B—Laughingouse 4 McCullum pass (Daly kick), 0:54

S—Adams 6 run (Pursley kick), 0:15

Fourth trimester

B—Laughinghouse 6 McCullum pass (Daly kick), 3:17

B—Luc 45 interception return (Daly kick), 1:58

S—Adams 11 run (missed kick), 0:58