Road Trip: Celina takes out Texas Liberty-Eylau in Paris 32-15
BY Townsend Keller, Special to the Record
PARIS -- Against an unfamiliar foe in an unfamiliar setting, Celina (3-1) displayed physical authority over Texas Liberty-Eylau (1-3) in a 32-15 victory that was expected to be a much more competitive affair.
The convincing win pleased Celina head coach Bill Elliott.
"I felt great about it," he said. "[Liberty-Eylau has] so much talent, they've got skill. They're so loaded up; we were scared coming in that we wouldn't be able to contain their speed and handle them on the outside. But our kids did a great job, they rose up."
Before tonight, Celina and Liberty-Eylau had never faced off in football.
Their initial introductions consisted of the Celina defense throwing Liberty-Eylau's Rashaan Donelson for three consecutive losses.
Sophomore quarterback Nathan Elliott snuck in from the 1-yard line after a 37-yard drive to put the Bobcats up 7-0 in the only score of the first quarter.
Liberty-Eylau's next offensive drive stalled and the Leopards were forced to punt.
However, a low snap forced Leopards punter Javon Rigsby to try and run for the first down and some nifty moves turned a fourth down into a 23-yard gain that would be Liberty-Eylau's best offensive play of the half.
Celina responded with a 58-yard drive that saw Elliott complete passes to three different receivers, culminating in a 3-yard touchdown run by junior halfback Connor Torbert. Liberty-Eylau would only get two offensive plays off in their following drive before Celina's Forrest Keller, a senior defensive tackle, forced a fumble.
"We really pumped [the defensive line] all week that they were going to have to do a good job of catching them in the backfield," coach Elliott said. "We really worked on that and they really bought into it."
Elliott would take Celina down the field for the final score of the half.
After finding senior wide receiver Ben Thiel on a 20-yard strike, the sophomore quarterback lofted a pass to senior tight end Blake Pasqua, who made a remarkable one-handed catch for a 10-yard gain. Elliott would then find Thiel for 3-yard scoring pass that put Celina ahead of Liberty-Eylau 19-0 going into the break.
But the Leopards would not go quietly into the Paris night.
After a stalled Bobcats drive and a missed field goal, Liberty-Eylau displayed the speed coach Elliott had been concerned about all week. Running out of the Wildcat, junior Davion Hall flew down the field on a 52-yard scoring run that put Liberty-Eylau on the board 19-7.
"We got a little sloppy in the second half because we were up on them," coach Elliot said. "We need to make sure we stay focused and we've got to start finishing games better."
The comeback bid was quickly put to rest as Torbert put the hammer down, producing rushing touchdowns in two consecutive offensive drives, giving him three for the night.
"Definitely have to give all the credit to God and my offensive line," Torbert said.
Liberty-Eylau would show one more sign of life as Donelson connected with Keith Wynkoop for a 53-yard touchdown that was the final scoring play of the night. The Leopards recovered an onside kick, but Donelson was picked off by junior corner Braylin Brown to seal the 32-15 road victory.
"We went straight back that Saturday (after a Week 0 loss to Melissa) and started working hard," Torbert said. "We thought we were up there, but realized we weren't."
The Bobcats have another long trip next week as they travel to Yukon, Okla. on Friday for a 7:30 p.m. game with Perryton.
"We're going to have a long day next Friday," coach Elliott said. "It will be an exciting trip, I think. The kids are looking forward to it and we're going to have a good time."
Torbert doesn't foresee any problems with a long road trip after this week.
"They had us picked to lose by 21," he said. "We won by 17."
Torbert carried the ball 19 times for 97 yards and three touchdowns. Elliott had an efficient game through the air, completing 19-of-28 attempts for 204 yards and a touchdown while also contributing one rushing score. Thiel was again the leading receiver for Celina, catching five passes for 99 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, Brown and senior defensive back Dalton Hamilton had interceptions. Keller, senior linebacker Justin Leshowitz and junior defensive tackle Jeremiah Bottoms were constantly leading the charge into the Leopards backfield.
For Liberty-Eylau, Ronelson completed three passes for 58 yards and a touchdown while Hall led the ground attack with four rushes for 62 yards and a score.