LIBERTY — The Red Devils fell two yards shy of stealing win number one in Travelers Rest during the season opener on Friday night.
The Liberty High football team saw a 13-0 halftime lead vanish in the final minutes, falling by a score of 28-27 in an overtime thriller with Travelers Rest.
“It was a heartbreaking loss. No one wants to lose that way,” Liberty coach Kyle Stewart said. “I just told our guys we need to start playing four quarters at full speed. They’re a responsible group of young men so if you ask them whether they gave four quarters of full speed effort, they will tell you whether it’s a yes or a no.”
After tying the game with just a few ticks left on the clock, Liberty went into overtime with plenty of momentum.
Travelers Rest, however, put some pressure on the Red Devils, scoring on the first play to give Liberty a 28-21 lead.
Three plays later, Liberty tied the game with a touchdown of its own. After a timeout to talk things over, the Red Devils opted to go for a two-point conversion instead of a game-tying field goal.
The gamble didn’t pay off, and Liberty was left with a 0-1 record to start the season.
“We felt like we were moving the ball fairly well and I had confidence in these guys to get the job done,” Stewart said of his decision to go for two. “They said ‘let’s go for it,’ so we went. I’ve got faith in them. They’ve put in a lot of hard work so if they want to go, I’m going to listen to them.”
The 13-0 lead Liberty held at the half slipped away in just seconds, and the Red Devils found themselves facing a deficit in the fourth.
Liberty Quarterback Tyler Burgess tossed the game tying touchdown with less than seven seconds left.
“We just found it late in the game. They just turned it on,” Stewart said. “I wish we could have put something like that together in the third quarter, and maybe we wouldn’t be in this situation.”
Stewart said the lead could have been much larger at the half.
“We left 14 points on the field during the first half,” Stewart said. “We missed an extra point and that was the difference in the ball game. I feel like if the third quarter goes differently for us, It’s a different ball game.”
Despite the loss, Stewart said some of his inexperienced players found the chance to improve Friday night.
“Some of these guys that were inexperienced got in here and played well,” Stewart said. “I don’t think we had a whole lot of missed assignments and our young guys definitely hung in there and fought.”
“We’ve got a lot of young guys playing on that offensive line,” Stewart continued. “We’ve got a few freshmen and sophomores in there so it’s a major positive that they got in here and fought. These kids just got after it.”
Turnovers did not help the comeback efforts, as Liberty threw an interception and fumbled away several opportunities.
“The turnover bug kind of bit us in the second half,” Stewart said. “We had some penalties that really hurt us. There were just several opportunities to score we did not take advantage of, and that’s my fault.”
Stewart says most of the credit belongs to Travelers Rest.
“We always talk about how we’re going to respond to adversity,” Stewart said. “The found some momentum and you have to give them some credit for coming out fired up. They went full speed and got after it.”
“If a couple things would have gone a little differently, who knows what could have happened,” he said.