The Salina Liberty are on a rare roll, having won their last two games and are 3-1 on the season.
The lone setback was a 42-37 gut-punch against Omaha on March 10 in Omaha, Neb. — the winning touchdown coming with 10 seconds left on a 47-yard Hail Mary pass from John Gibbs to Jamall Williams.
Salina coach Heron O’Neal said he and his staff didn’t preach revenge during this week’s preparations for Saturday’s rematch at Tony’s Pizza Events Center. Kickoff is 6:35 p.m.
“It’s not revenge or getting even, it’s the next opponent on our schedule we have to play,” said O’Neal, who has turned the downtrodden Liberty around in his first year on the job. “We’re playing pretty good football and we’re just looking to go out there and improve on what we’ve done so far this year. They just happen to be the next team we face.”
On the surface, the odds seem favorable for Salina to even the score. Omaha’s 1-3 and has lost its last three games, including a 33-32 loss at Bismarck last Saturday.
The three losses, though, have been by a total of five points and O’Neal sees a quality team when he watches the Beef on video.
“Take the revenge factor out of it,” he said. “Look at what they’ve and what they produce on film, look how solid that team is, look how they play together and make the plays whenever they need to. They’ve lost to some pretty good football teams, too. They haven’t been blown out all year.”
Omaha employs two quarterbacks in Gibbs and Anthony Iannotti. O’Neal expects Iannotti to start tonight.
“Iannotti played really well against Bismarck, so that’s who I think we’ll see,” he said. “We’re preparing for both of them, but if I’m a bettor, that’s the guy I think is going to be starter for this game, the more veteran guy.
“They have a special back in (Jeff) Mack, who can definitely get it done as well, running the football as well as receiving. We’ve definitely got to know our game plan, know our alignment assignments and do the things we need to do to win.”
Salina crushed Dallas 55-16 last Saturday at TPEC as Dominique Carson scored three touchdowns, Derrick Bernard threw four TD passes and Travis Taylor set a Champions Indoor Football record with five sacks.
The Liberty had 100 yards passing, 89 rushing and limited Dallas to 142 total yards.
O’Neal credits Bernard and Carson for the rapid offensive improvement.
“What helps with this whole maturing process is they’re really good friends off the field,” he said. “I know with what they bring to the table and they hold everybody accountable because they’re the leaders of that offense.
“We fixed all the things we need to fix. We told the players it’s not playing call, it’s not the scheme, we just need to play better and execute the game plan better.”
The defense has been stellar from the start and is improving as well, according to O’Neal.
“We’re taking things away that offenses like to do, that No. 1 thing, and make them go to their second and third options,” he said. “Beating them to the punch is what we’re trying to do on defense.”
The Liberty’s defensive front played particularly well last week. O’Neal singled out linebacker Gary Wyatt, Taylor and fellow linemen Jamar Seard and Jake Lattimer, who’s working as a student teacher at Shawnee Mission North High School in Overland Park during the week.
“Those four guys right now are playing pretty good together and continue to help us be good on defense,” he said.