Liberty’s line play is focus of this off season


Since 2012, Liberty has compiled a league mark of 31-8 and has advanced to the post-season four times. What a day October 27th was for the Liberty football program? The league-championship, playoff-clinching win over Girard sent the community into a frenzy. The Leopards have had three coaches in the past six years – however – they’ve seem to have found the man who is set to lead the program into the next decade in coach Chet Allen. He’s built his team from an offensive unit which averaged less than 10 points per game in his first campaign (2015) to a unit which averaged north of 37 points and 355 yards per contest last year.

2018 Liberty Leopards’ Football Preview

Head Coach: Chet Allen, 4th season (16-18)

Record:  8-3 (6-0), 1st place in AAC Blue Tier

What you need to know about the Liberty Offense

Dra Rushton – who led Liberty in rushing and passing in each of the last two seasons – has graduated. If that wasn’t enough – they also lost many of the offensive linemen and skill players also. Brian Maddox (686 rushing yards) and Charles Pickard (361 rushing yards) are both gone from their backfield as well as receiver Capone Haywood (299 receiving yards) and athlete Quaishon Campbell (164 rushing yards, 364 receiving yards). Seniors Jaylen McKinney (118) and Hamad Alhmeed (112) both went for over 100-rushing yards last year. Zion Matlock will be looked at to lead the receivers. In coach Allen’s three years as head coach, he’s seen his offensive total yardage per game totals dip from 285 (2015) to 232 (2016) to an increase of up to 356 just last year.  

Key to the Liberty Offense

Coach Allen states, “We’re reloading effectively. The leadership from the young men that have been contributing the last couple years to the process (has been encouraging).”

What you need to know about the Liberty Defense

The defense has always been Liberty’s calling card. Since 2001, the Leopards have allowed 21-points or less per game in 13 of their 17 seasons. This year, they’ll have to replace their top 5 tacklers along with the four players who intercepted multiple passes. In the summer of 2014, the Leopards had to replace their top three tacklers but not five. Simi Moananu led the returnees with 35 tackles, as well as 2 quarterback takedowns, in 2017. Ezell Brown finished third a year ago with 2 1/2 sacks. He also took down 19 ball carriers. 

Key to the Liberty Defense

“We’re looking to play with tenacity and intensity,” says Allen. “Things are going to happen in a game, but we have to have the drive to keep moving the offense backward and defend the next down.”

Offensive player(s) to watch for

Entire offensive unit

…”We’ll rely on the whole unit, not just one player,” says coach Allen. “We were very blessed last year to have the caliber of players as we did in Dra (Rushton), Capone (Haywood), and especially our linemen in (Derek) Gilcher, (David) Sewell, (James) Spisak, and (Mohannad) Yusuf who were seniors, so now we need to coach up these guys and see who takes the coaching and rises to the top to lead.”

Defensive player(s) to watch for

Senior/LB, Simi Moananu

Senior/DE, Ezell Brown

…”Simi is our anchor in the middle,” Allen states. “We hope he stays consistent and healthy. Ezell is our enigma, meaning we plan on using him in different fashions and letting his athletic ability takeover. We’re somewhat simple defensively. It’s just how bad do we want to stop the other team.”

2018 Schedule

Aug. 24 – at Struthers, 7

Aug. 31 – Lakeview, 7

Sept. 7 – at Pymatuning Valley, 7

Sept. 14 – Brookfield, 7

Sept. 21 – at Campbell Memorial, 7

Sept. 28 – LaBrae, 7

Oct. 5 – at Champion, 7

Oct. 21 – Jefferson, 7

Oct. 19 – Newton Falls, 7

Oct. 26 – Girard, 7 

Key Game

Since the Leopards began their series with Struthers again, the Wildcats have outscored Liberty by a count of 117-27 in their past three season openers. With a lot of new players seeing the field – this is the perfect matchup to see where the Leopards are moving forward.

2017 Team Stats

Scoring Offense: 37.3

Total Offense: 355.9

Passing Offense: 86.7

Rushing Offense: 269.2

Scoring Defense: 18.5

2017 Statistical Leaders

Passing: Dra Rushton – 954 yards, 52.7% (58-110), 10 TDs*

Rushing: Dra Rushton – 1414 yards, 9.4 avg, 24 TDs*

Receiving: Capone Haywood – 26 catches, 299 yards, 5 TDs*

Tackles: Chris Edmonds – 93*

Quarterback Sacks: Chris Edmonds – 12*

Interceptions: Capone Haywood – 3*


Big 22 Recipients

2017: Dra Rushton (2)

2016: Dra Rushton

2014: Lynn Bowden (2)

2013: Lynn Bowden

2012: Sherron Walls

2008: Isaiah Bell & Fitzgerald Toussaint (2)

2007: Fitzgerald Toussaint

2006: Ryan Gillum

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