Lakeview continues hot start, outlasts Liberty in shootout, 40-31 | News, Sports, Jobs


Staff photo / Mason Cole
Lakeview’s Boom Gillis tries to evade Liberty’s Konnor Seifert during the Bulldogs’ 40-31 win.

CORTLAND — Despite a second-half surge by their opponents, the Lakeview Bulldogs rolled to another victory, beating the Liberty Leopards 40-31 Friday.

The Leopards (0-3) battled toe to toe with the Bulldogs (3-0) in the first quarter. After a quick three-and-out possession by Lakeview, Liberty’s offense showed its explosive potential, as on the third play of its first drive, quarterback Tawann Tutwiler connected with Bra’Shawn Hicks on a 61-yard touchdown pass, giving the Leopards a quick 6-0 lead.

Liberty did not slow down after its early game touchdown. On the following drive, Lakeview’s offense was unable to convert a short-yardage, fourth down situation inside the Leopards 30 yard line, giving Liberty possession back on a turnover on downs.

Lakeview head coach Derrick Bush was not surprised by the fast start of Liberty

“We knew the Liberty Leopards were going to show up and play,” Bush said. “They always play Lakeview well.”

After recovering the fumble, the Leopards had an opportunity to grab some serious momentum and potentially, a two-score lead over their opponents.

But, Lakeview caught a break, as it recovered a Liberty fumble inside the Leopards’ own 30 yard line.

Shortly after, the Bulldogs put themselves on the board with a 2-yard touchdown run by quarterback Boom Gillis, giving Lakeview a 7-6 lead.

Liberty refused to let the fumble-prompted touchdown slow its early game momentum. The Leopards drove down the field and put themselves in the red zone with a chance to respond.

Dawaun Moody crossed the goal line on what could have been a 17-yard touchdown run, but the play was called back because of a block in the back penalty.

To make a disappointing situation even worse for Liberty, Tutwiler threw an interception to Bulldogs defensive back Andrew Brown on the following play.

After the interception by Brown, Lakeview controlled the rest of the first half.

The Bulldogs started the second quarter with a goal line touchdown run by Thomas Easton, extending Lakeview’s lead to 13-6.

After another fumble by the Leopards, their third turnover of the first half, Lakeview would score on another Gillis run, giving the Bulldogs a 19-6 lead at halftime.

Liberty head coach Joe Simon said that the first half mistakes plagued his team.

“Those turnovers are just killing us,” Simon said. “We had a block in the back on a touchdown, which was kind of a questionable call, which would have been a huge play. We fumbled the ball, we were just careless with it at times. Some of those fumbles were just careless; you can’t do that.”

Gillis punished the Leopards all game with big plays on the ground and through the air. The Bulldogs’ starting quarterback finished the game with three rushing touchdowns, two of which were scored in the first quarter.

“Boom is great on the run,” Bush said. “He’s a great kid, he runs hard, he makes a lot of the right decisions and we’ve got to continue to trust him and create some mismatches with him.”

Despite a tough first half, Liberty came out of halftime with a massive surge.

Dwayne Moody took the opening kickoff of the second half back for a touchdown, cutting Lakeview’s lead to 19-13.

“We made a huge mistake on the kickoff, kicking to their best skill player,” Bush said. “They capitalized on that.”

The Bulldogs fumbled on their ensuing drive. The ball was recovered by Liberty on Lakeview’s 39-yard line. The Leopards capitalized on the great field position, as Tutwiler would scamper across the goal line on a 26-yard touchdown run. The score cut Liberty’s deficit to 19-18.

Liberty continued its unbelievable third quarter with a 75-yard touchdown run by Dwayne Moody, giving the Leopards back the lead 24-19.

Lakeview finally answered the surge at the end of the third quarter, as Easton would score again on a 40-yard touchdown run, giving the lead back to the Bulldogs, 27-24.

In the fourth quarter, Lakeview continued to regain momentum as Easton would intercept a Tutwiler pass, giving the Bulldogs the ball on Liberty’s 45 yard line.

The Bulldogs took advantage of the turnover, as Easton scored yet another rushing touchdown to extend his team’s lead to 33-24 with 9:34 remaining in the game.

After a tough first half, Easton played a critical role for his team in the second half, both in terms of scoring and forcing turnovers.

“We don’t quit,” Easton said. “I messed up a couple times, I dropped the ball, I fumbled, but we got it right back. I said ‘I’m not done.’ We just faced the adversity, it was the whole team, everyone.”

Bush said that Lakeview’s coaching staff made it a point to encourage their running back after his turnovers.

“After that second fumble, I told him, ‘we believe in you,’” Bush said. “I know he believes in us and our game plan. We threw him right back in there. I know he’s a special player, he made some big runs tonight and really kind of got us the win.”

Despite the big plays from Easton, Liberty refused to lay down, as Tutwiler twisted around Lakeview defenders on his way to another rushing touchdown, cutting the Bulldogs’ lead to 33-31.

Although the Leopards were not able to pull off the comeback victory, Simon said that he was proud of what his team did in the second half.

“I saw a team with a lot of heart,” he said. “They would not quit. We have five or six starters, key players, who went out in the second half. We had freshmen in there, guys who’d never been on the field before, and this team really poured everything they had into this game.”

In what became an offensive duel down the stretch, Gillis would solidify the Bulldogs’ win with a short touchdown run which gave Lakeview a 40-31 lead, which it held onto the rest of the way.

“We’ve been talking adversity all summer,” Bush said. “We knew adversity was going to hit us in the face tonight. This was our first game at home, we knew we were going to fight. The minute we got down, us coaches, we told them we were going to come together as one, we just continued to play together as a team and we were able to come out on top.”

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