Despite strong second half comeback Roughriders fall short to Liberty

Young team should come back strong in 2019 season

After a first quarter in which the Center Roughriders appeared up to the task of advancing in prep playoff action, things went haywire for Center in the second quarter in a game they ended up losing 55-38.

While the Roughriders attempted to stay in the game in the second half by outscoring Liberty 20-13, that was not enough of an effort to pull Center out of the second quarter hole. The Panthers put 35 points on the board in the second quarter while Center added another 12 to finish the first half with Liberty on top, 42-18.

The initial kickoff saw Center's Alexis Lopez boot an on-sides kick which the Roughriders recovered giving them early momentum. The Riders were unable to capitalize on that Panther turnover and saw Liberty get a break-away run to the 4-yard line.

With 8:16 in left in the opening quarter Liberty's Jeremiah Guillory took the ball across the goal line followed by a good kick to put the Panthers ahead, 7-0. But the Riders did not leave the Liberty TD unanswered.

With 5:37 to go in the first quarter Roughrider quarterback Jayden Hicks connected with Zacc Smith on a 19-yard pass to put Center on the scoreboard. A bad snap on the PAT went over kicker Alexis Lopez's head putting the score at 7-6.

The first period ended on that nearly even keel.

But in the second quarter Liberty came back strong. The first touchdown came on a J.J. Slack 3-yard run to put the Panthers ahead, 14-6 with 9:21 left in the half.

Just over a minute later Center's Hicks kept the ball taking it in from 22 yards out to bring Center close again, 14-12, after a 2-point conversion attempt failed.

Liberty's Guillory scored his second touchdown of the game on a 37-yard scoring run with 5:11 left on the clock to put the Panthers ahead 21-12.

A Roughrider fumble on Center's next possession was capitalized on by Liberty's Jordan Leday who scampered 41 yards seconds later to put the Panthers up 28-12 with 4:34 left in the first half.

But the quarter which saw 47 points tallied to the scoreboard, was far from over.

On the Panther kickoff, Center's Marques Hall got a hold of the ball and dodged a volley of Liberty defenders through mid-field before getting to the 35-yard line where he was nearly throttled before breaking loose to dash into the end zone. The 76-yard kickoff return was followed by another 2-point conversion attempt that failed putting the score at 28-18 with 4:17 left in the first half.

But the Liberty offensive machine was not finished. The Panthers came back with another TD with 2:29 left in the half and then scored yet another to end the half on top, 42-18.

The Roughriders did not let that deficit hamper their comeback attempt in the second half of play but the 12 point third quarter and 8-point effort in the final period, while outscoring Liberty in second half play, was not enough to counter Liberty's big second quarter scoring outburst.

The UIL Class 4A Bi-District Playoff elimination game victory for Liberty saw them advance in playoff action this week against Giddings in the area round of playoffs. The Panthers have a 7-4 season mark and were the third place team in Class 4-A District 9.

The good news for the Roughriders as the 2018 season came to a close is that the squad and Head Coach Barry Bowman have youth on their side. Junior quarterback Hicks amasses 1,773 yards passing for the season on 103 completions out of 199 attempts for a nearly 52 percent completion rate.

Sophomore running back Keamondre Horace was the rushing leader for the Riders with 988 yards on 97 carries averaging more than 10 yards a carry. Hicks, was the team's second leading rusher with another 663 yards picked up in the running game giving them 2,426 yards total offense on the season.

Hall, also a sophomore, had 455 yards rushing and another 424 yards receiving for a season total of 1,048 yards offense. Jakerrion Watson and Zacc Smith, both juniors helped round out the Roughriders offensive attack. Watson had 738 yards offense while Smith added another 238 yards to the Center rushing attack.

Also a junior is the sure-footed Lopez who connected on 40 of 41 point after TD attempts and averaged slightly more than 39 yards per punt for the 2018 season.

For more photos from Friday's playoff game, please click here:

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