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May 09th, 2021

easton zapienEaston Zapien carries the ball against Dodg City Friday. Zapien had 19 carries for 51 yards in a 35-0 loss. L&T photo/Earl WattBy EARL WATT

  • Leader & Times

The Liberal Redskin defense had no answer for Dodge City’s Matt Friess, Jr., Friday night. In a game that neither offense established the ability to move the ball, Friess stepped up for the Red Demons and caught three touchdown passes, returned a punt for a touchdown, and caught a 31-yard pass that set up a one-yard touchdown run for the Red Demons, and Liberal fell to 0-2 with a 35-0 loss in the Western Athletic Conference opener.

Bank of Beaver sports article

Liberal’s best drive of the night was the final drive for the Redskins.

With the game out of reach, Liberal coach Jason Dunlap turned to freshman quarterback Brooks Kappelmann, and Dunlap also put senior receiver Jaylin Staten in the backfield. The pair worked the zone-read offense to perfection in an 11-play drive the pushed the ball form the Redskins 35 to the Red Demon 4 yard line, Liberal’s deepest penetration of the game, before the Redskins ran out of downs.

Staten carried the ball seven times on the drive for 37 yards, and Kappelmann completed two of three passes for 16 yards. Dodge City was also called for pass interference on the drive.

Liberal focused on the run game early, but penalties and fumbles hurt the Redskins in the first half.

Liberal’s defense prevented a fourth down conversion by the Red Demons at the Liberal 30 yard line, but Liberal quarterback Shay Kerr fumbled on first down, and two plays later, Friess caught a 27-yard pass for a touchdown and a 7-0 Dodge City lead.

Liberal put together a 12-play drive that included  fourth-down conversion on a run by Easton Zapien and  pushed the ball down to the Dodge City 26 yard line before a dropped pass Malcolm Wiltshire ended the drive.

The two teams traded punts, but the difference was Friess for the Red Demons who returned the punt to the end zone, and Dodge City had a 14-0 lead.

Turnovers came form both teams with three fumbles on the next four drives, and Dodge City made the Redskins pay after Friess caught a 31-yard pass late in the second quarter before being tackled at the 1 yard line, and Alden Knedler dove across the goal line for a 21-0 Dodge City lead.

The Red Demons started the second half with a 30-yard pass to Friess, and the Red Demons had the all in the red zone before freshman defender Aidan Schwindt intercepted a pass to end the threat.

Liberal put together another sustained drive taking 14 plays to move the ball inside the Red Demon 40 yard line, but an errant throw on fourth and four gave the ball back to Dodge City, and another pass to Friess resulted in another touchdown, and the Red Demons had a 28-0 lead.

A fumble by Dodge City early in the fourth quarter gave the Redskins a short-filed opportunity, but another fourth-down drop by Wiltshire ended the drive, and Dodge City took over at the 35 yard line.

To plays later, Friess caught a 63-yard bomb for a touchdown, and the Redskins trailed 35-0.

Neither team put together another scoring drive, and after Liberal stalled at the 4 yard line on the drive led by Kappelmann, Dodge City ran out the final seconds for the win.

Staten led the Redskins rushing attack with nine carries for 54 yards. Zapien had 19 carries for 51 yards. 

Hunter Huskey had one carry for no yards. 

Shay Kerr had nine carries for 18 yards to go along with nine out of 24 passing for 55 yards.

Kappelmann was two for three for 16 yards passing.

Izzy Garcia-Rotolo caught three passes for 33 yards. Wiltshire caught two passes for 10 yards. Jose Lopez caught two passes for 10 yards. Zapien caught two passes for 13 yards, Staten caught a pass for three yards, and Zayden Martinez caught a pass for two yards.

But fumbles and the inability to convert fourth downs kept the Redskins scoreless.

“The turnover bug got us tonight,” Dunlap said. “We turned the ball over on fumbles that were hard runs, but we have to be cognizant that we have a ball in our hand. We have some young kids playing up front, we just have to coach them better.”

Dunlap pointed to the contributions the freshmen made when Liberal needed something to happen.

“Our team started to fell like they didn’t want to be here, and Schwindt makes a big interception,” Dunlap said. “They call pass interference when he was trying to catch a pass. Freshman (Martinez) catches a ball down here on the goal line. Another freshman plays half the snaps at offensive tackle.”

But the experience they are gaining isn’t showing up in the win column.

“We want them to calculate to wins,” Dunlap said. “As coaches get distraught, too. You put in on that work, you want to see something. We have a good freshman bunch. They are talented. We had a freshman quarterback (Kappelmann) come in. He knows what we have and what is in front of him.”

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EARL WATT • Leader & Times


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