Dominique Carson didn't need a football game to make himself feel right at home Sunday afternoon when the Salina Liberty visited Dodge City.
He was already home.
Still Carson, who still lives part of the year on a farm just outside Dodge, could not have been happier to be back at United Wireless Arena to face his former team.
"It was special," said Carson, who had his most productive game of the season so far in the unbeaten Liberty's 62-34 thrashing of the Dodge City Law. "It was the first time playing in Dodge since I left.
"It could have been better. We still had some rusty moments, but other than that it was a great game."
It certainly was for the Liberty offense, which scored on all but one of its 10 possessions before quarterback Tyrie Adams took a knee twice to run out the clock at the end. Carson, Tracy Brooks and Adams combined for 126 rushing yards and five touchdowns while averaging 5.5 yards per carry.
The 5-foot-5, 150-pound Carson, who played for Dodge City from 2014-16, has served primarily as a kick returner and backup to Brooks at running back. But he took full advantage of his opportunities against the law running for 47 yards on just eight carries, including a 21-yard touchdown early in the second quarter that that put the Liberty up 27-14.
"I was definitely happy to see Carson get out in the open and stretch his legs a little and show that straight-line speed he has," said Salina coach Heron O'Neal, whose Liberty remained the only undefeated team in Champions Indoor Football at 6-0. "He came back to Dodge City and did exactly what he should do in a place he played at and where he lives.
"He has been one of the best backs in CIF and he proved it today."
Carson, a longtime CIF standout, said he likes his backup role during his second stint with the Liberty, after serving as their primary back in 2018.
"I don't ever went to be the only person on the team, because that's easy for teams to scout," he said. "I tell Tracy all the time, don't forget that I used to do this by myself all the time.
"I'm trying to get him the most carries because he's a little younger than me and we try to put him in great situations where he can use his power and ability. We played together the year I was here, so we already knew each other. My game is different than everyone else in that I don't need a lot of carries."
That said, there remains a friendly competition among the backs, including Nelson Brown, who was not active for the Dodge City game.
"If Tracy tries to do something, I want to do it, too. Our quarterback even feels the same way," Carson said. "We want to prove ourselves as much as possible."
Brooks had another typical outing, rushing for 52 yards and three touchdowns on nine carries and catching two passes for 23 yards.
The Liberty also got a big game from new receiver Chad Steinwachs, who joined the team this past week and caught four passes for 15 yards, including two touchdowns. At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, he is an inviting target for Tyrie Adams.
"For him to do what he did in his first game was great," O'Neal said.
Adams completed 12 of 17 passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns — two to Steinwachs and two more to Ed Smith, who leads all CIF receivers in scoring. Adams also ran for 29 yards and a score.
Dodge City outgained the Liberty 243 yards to 228, but needed 21 more plays to pull it off. Salina took advantage of superior field position and the defense came up with two end zone interceptions, from Naiquan Thomas and Kendrick Harper.
Jaylen Lowe, who came on at quarterback for starter Ray John Austin-Ramsey after just one series, led the Law with 73 yards rushing and three touchdowns, plus completed 14 of 21 passes for 115 yards.
For Carson, who said he makes two or three extended visits to Dodge City each year from his home near Dallas, it was a special day.
"People still remember me here a lot because I come back and do community things," he said. "But this was the first time they've seen me play in a while.
"Some of them were going, 'Man, you're still playing?' My teammates were actually great for me today, where if they didn't have people here they gave me their tickets, so I tried to give away as many free tickets as I could."
Only one problem.
"They still were pulling for Dodge," Carson said with a laugh.