Salina remains unbeaten, clinches home field for playoffs
The Salina Liberty were missing three defensive starters and it showed.
They also were without their starting quarterback and didn't miss a beat.
With Mitch Kidd again filling in for an injured Tyrie Adams, the offense more than picked up the slack as the Liberty remained undefeated with a 61-54 Champions Indoor Football victory over the Dodge City Law at Tony's Pizza Events Center.
Kidd completed 16 of 19 passes for 192 yards and six touchdowns, plus ran for two more, and the Liberty scored on all nine possessions before an ill-advised interception in the final minute.
"Like I always told everybody, it's not just a one-quarterback team," Liberty coach Heron O'Neal said of Kidd, who was pressed into action when Adams went down on the opening drive at Sioux City two weeks ago and led the team to a 51-40 victory. "We have two good quarterbacks.
Salina Liberty quarterback Mitch Kidd (9) throws a touchdown pass to Jason Shelley during the first half of the game against Dodge City Law at Tony’s Pizza Events Center on Saturday.
Kidd had not been on the active roster the previous four games when he was added as a receiver for the trip to Sioux City. The timing could not have been better.
"I actually came in as our fourth receiver, just to play on special teams and get on the field a little bit," said Kidd, who had not been on the field since the CIF opener against Wichita the second week of the season. "Coach O was trying to work me into the system, and then Ty went down and gave me a little bit of room to make some plays.
"It all worked out. Coach O is a sneaky genius, I think."
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Adams, who suffered a bone bruise near high knee in the game, said that he probably could have played against Dodge City, but O'Neal decided to rest him one more game with another bye week coming up before the Liberty head to Omaha on June 12.
"(Kidd) should be player of the game and maybe even (CIF) player of the week for what he's done tonight," O'Neal said. "So I hope the league sees and recognizes what he did against a good team."
With the victory, the Liberty improved to 8-0 overall and 7-0 in the CIF to clinch home field throughout the playoffs. Dodge City fell to 3-3 and a second-place tie with Omaha.
While the offense was clicking, the defense struggled minus starters Jake Lattimer at end, Rusty Becker at tackle and Isiah Barfield in the secondary. But it still came up with two big stops with a goal-line stand in the second quarter and Kendrick Harper's end zone interception in the third, plus twice forced Dodge City to settle for field goals.
"Defensively, it was not our best performance, but I understand we played some people out of position and had some new guys in the secondary," O'Neal said. "I was definitely happy with the effort everybody gave us.
"I was supper happy with how Kionce (Roberts), the way he responded after giving up a touchdown and coming up with a big fourth-down stop. And K-Hop (Harper) played well all night long."
The defense gave up 208 yards total offense, but the Liberty were never in serious danger after Dodge City's Gerald Thomas returned the second-half kickoff and cut a 14-point halftime to 33-26. Two plays later, Kidd found Jauhem Byrd with a 21-yard touchdown pass, and following Harper's interception hit Tracy Brooks for a 3-yard score that pushed the lead to 21.
The Law got no closer than 14 until their final touchdown with 3 seconds on the clock.
"Defensively, we didn't play how we wanted to play," said Harper, who in addition to his interception broke up two passes. "We'll take this bye week to get healed.
"We're still undefeated, but we've got a lot of work to do."
The Liberty never trailed, scoring on the first play of the game with Kidd hitting Ed Smith on a 23-yard corner route. Dodge City answered with an 8-yard pass from Ray John Ramsey to lineman Lamont McDonald, but missed the extra point. Dominic Carson then returned the ensuing kickoff 50 yards for the only touchdown that did not involve Kidd.
Kidd hooked up with Smith two more times on a 27-yarder in the second quarter and again for 19 yards late in the third. Smith finished with three catches for 69 yards, while Byrd had five receptions for 51, Chad Steinwachs four for 35 and Jason Shelley two for 29 and a touchdown.
"The receivers definitely make it easy," Kidd said. "And the offensive line did a great job."
The Liberty finished with 268 yards total offense. Brooks led the ground game with 46 yards on 14 carries.
For Dodge City, Ramsey completed 18 of 32 passes for 157 yards and five touchdowns. Cameron Booty had 47 rushing yards and a touchdown on 15 attempts, while Torrance Carr caught two touchdown catches.