Football: Minutemen explode in home opener

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Liberty takes down Staunton River 46-7

By Denton Day


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By: Denton Day
Sports Editor

One of the Liberty Minutemen’s goals this off-season was to become a more physical team. Working when no one is watching to be able to impose their will when the lights come on. The team put together its best performance of the season in a 46-7 win over Staunton River in the home opener.


The circumstances surrounding the matchup between the Minutemen and the Golden Eagles were weird. The game was moved from Friday, September 14 to Wednesday, September 12 due to the threat of Hurricane Florence. The decision was understandable but that did not take away the overall oddness of playing on a Wednesday.


“It feels like Friday right now, it’s going to be weird to get up and go to school tomorrow morning,” Liberty Head Coach Chris Watts said following the game.


Liberty wasted no time giving the fans in attendance something to cheer for. On Staunton River’s first play from scrimmage the Minutemen forced and recovered a fumble, inside the red zone.


After moving the ball to the 4-yard line Liberty put the ball in the hands of Tre’ Saunders who took it in for the game’s first score.


The Golden Eagles, coming off their best offensive performance five days prior, moved the ball down the field on their ensuing drive. Utilizing the right side of the offensive line Mykah English rattled off a few first down runs and moved Staunton River across midfield.


“That’s the bread and butter of this offense,” Staunton River Head Coach Brian Divers said.


Faced with a fourth-and-three the Golden Eagles again called on English, who moved the chains.


Staunton River was without their top rusher Jayson Eanes but still managed to move the ball down, close to the red zone. But Liberty’s defense would soon force a fourth-and-12. The Minutemen forced Staunton River to turn the ball over on downs and took over.


Liberty marched the ball down the field looking to extend its 7-0 lead. Staunton River forced the Minutemen into a fourth-and-1, Aladdin Elroumy handed the ball to Saunders who picked up 7 yards and the first down, keeping the drive alive.


On the second play of the second quarter Elroumy connected with John Gass on a bubble screen. Gass used his blockers to evade the Golden Eagle defenders and took it to the house for a 31-yard touchdown.


Liberty’s defense came up big again on the next drive forcing another fourth-and-long. Staunton River attempted a fake punt but a fumble left the Golden Eagles no choice but to jump on the ball and turn it over on downs.


“We didn’t have a long week to prepare but we were focused all the way through,” Drake Schaeffer said. Schaeffer, who plays anchors the Minutemen defense as the team's starting linebacker, caused havoc all night in the Staunton River backfield.


Elroumy, who led both teams with 107 rushing yards, capitalized by taking the ball in from 4 yards out. Liberty led 20-0 with 7:18 in the half.


On the next drive sophomore Tyler Hensley stepped under center to control the offense. Hensley’s first completion was a beautiful 31-yard pass to Elroumy. Hensley put the ball where only Elroumy could make a play and with the wherewithal to get his feet in bounds Elroumy came down with it.


Hensley later connected with Gass on a 10-yard slant for the touchdown, Gass’ second of the night.


“We’d been working [Tyler] a little bit here and there throughout the year,” Watts said. “That kind of offense is new to us. So its been a slow process but we were able, tonight, to get more plays in.”


Staunton River’s lone touchdown came while trailing 46-0. The Golden Eagles handed the ball to Chris Smoot and Smoot busted through the Liberty defense for a 22-yard score, eliminating Liberty’s chance at a shutout.


“This offense is designed to march down the field and control the clock, and we weren’t able to do that tonight,” Divers said.


Divers is still new to the position of head coach. In fact, he accepted the position a week ago and Staunton River has had to play two games in those seven days.


“Here’s the deal, I don’t make excuses,” Divers said. “[Liberty] had the same amount of practice as we had. We just have to get better.”


“We’re going to continue to work and get better and we’ll let the chips fall where they may,” Divers added.


Elroumy led all rushers with 107 yards and two touchdowns and completed two of three passes for 34 yards and a score. Hensley completed five of eight passes for 79 yards and a touchdown. Saunders rushed for 46 yards and a touchdown and caught a 24-yard touchdown.


Liberty racked up 418 yards of total offense with 17 first downs.


English led Staunton River with 60 rushing yards. The Golden Eagles finished with 141 yards of total offense and five first downs.


Staunton River will have its bye week this week. The Golden Eagles return to action at home against Lord Botetourt on Friday, September 28.


Liberty will travel to Jefferson Forest on Friday, September 21.