Liberal made Great Bend earn a win Friday night at Great Bend Memorial Stadium. The shorthanded Redskins led the heavily favored Panthers 14-7 after one quarter and trailed 21-14 at halftime before the Panthers (3-2, 3-0) dominated the second half to win their homecoming game 37-14 over the Liberal Redskins (1-5, 0-4). Liberal lost three more starters this week after injuries to quarterback Britton Abbott and linebackers Michael Troutner and Nolan Larkin. Liberal has now lost five starters to likely season ending injuries.
Liberal's Trenton Hammond returned the opening kickoff to the GBHS 35 hushing the big homecoming crowd. Liberal's drive would stall and Great Bend would use trickery on their first play from scrimmage. Quarterback Mitch Kottas tossed a lateral to a Great Bend receiver and Great Bend pretended the pass was incomplete until the receiver threw a 66 yard touchdown to Connor Sell. But buoyed by two Great Bend turnovers, Liberal would take the lead. Sell fumbled a punt return when Trenton Hammond dislodged the ball and the Skins recovered. Caleb Wehling tossed a touchdown to Hammond on a hook pattern which he turned into a 29 yard TD at the 6:39 mark. Michael Begley intercepted a Kottas pass at the GBHS 26. Mauricio Neal used a great second effort on a one yard run which helped the Redskins take a 14-7 lead with 3:04 to play in the first quarter.
Josh Lopez took in a one yard touchdown to tie the game at the 9:42 mark in the second quarter. Great Bend recovered a controversial fumble leading to the go ahead score. Liberal's sideline believed Trenton Hammond's fumble should have been whistled dead, but the play was allowed to continued and Liberal fumbled for the Panthers to recover at the LHS 25. Kottas scrambled right and then left to find a wide open Jeremy Sigler for a 19 yard touchdown on a 4th and 14 play. That made it 21-14 with 6:35 to play. A Redkin goal line stand as time ran out in the first half allowed the Skins to trail just 21-14 at the break.
The Panthers dominated the second half which began with Liberal running a reverse on a kick return only for the Panthers to tackle Isaac Gallegos in the end zone for a safety to make it 23-14 nine seconds into the second half. Liberal worked against a 30 mile per hour wind in the third quarter. Great Bend's second possession of the half began at the 34 of Liberal. A two yard Lopez run made it 30-14 with 6:27 to play. A Jonathan Allende six yard run made it 37-14 after the point after.
The Panthers amassed 451 yards while holding the Redskins to 114 yards. Caleb Wehling was 5-9 with 80 yards passing and one touchdown without an interception. Great Bend's Josh Lopez rushed for 115 yards. Great Bend defeats Liberal for a 10 straight time as Liberal drops their 14th straight WAC game.
Liberal hosts 5-1 Bishop Carroll Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Gary Cornelsen Sports Complex for Senior Night. The Eagles beat rival Kapaun 20-13 Friday night at Carroll Field.