116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — They’ve completed 13 passes all season, attempted just 37.
When you play football against the Burlington Grayhounds, you know what you’re going to get offensively. It’s a power formation at all times, with no wide receivers.
Yet somehow, even at the Class 4A level, it works and has Burlington on the cusp of the playoffs.
Bryant Williams rushed 22 times for 218 yards and a pair of touchdowns as Burlington edged Iowa City Liberty, 20-18, Friday night in a crucial District 3 encounter. Quarterback Kanyae Baker’s 25-yard TD run and ensuing two-point conversion run late in the third quarter provided the difference for the Grayhounds (6-2 overall, 3-1 in district play).
“They might know (what’s coming),” Williams said. “But my line, they grind it out every day. I grind it out every day. My fullback does. When you know it’s coming, and you still can’t stop it, that’s good.”
This was heartbreak for Liberty (2-6, 2-2), which absorbed five consecutive losses to start this season: four against a brutal non-district schedule and a shutout loss to top-ranked North Scott. The Lightning regrouped and rebounded with their first wins the previous two weeks.
This one was right there for Liberty, too. Emerson Bennett’s 48-yard field-goal attempt on the final play of the game came up well short and officially ended the Lightning’s hopes in this game and perhaps in getting to the postseason.
Liberty closes next week against Mount Pleasant. Burlington has Fort Madison, which is 2-2 in the district.
North Scott clinched the district title Friday night.
“This is (the seniors’) last game on this field. They had a chance to get to the playoffs, keep this thing alive,” said first-year coach James Harris. “They’ve gone through a lot of adversity. God bless them. I really appreciate the work those seniors have done, buying into the things I’ve asked this program to do. We wanted this one tonight.”
A 21-yard touchdown pass from Tye Hughes to Christian Barney put Liberty up 7-0 in the first quarter. Williams countered just 48 seconds later for Burlington with a 56-yard TD run, with a two-point conversion run coming up short.
Williams scored from 38 yards out early in the second to put Burlington ahead for the first time, 12-7, but a Darius Willis-Newell 4-yard scoring scamper and two-point conversion run gave Liberty a 15-12 lead at halftime.
Willis-Newell carried 34 times for 158 yards.
The Lightning got a very good return of the second-half kickoff and drove inside the Burlington 10, having to settle for a Bennett 22-yard field goal for an 18-12 lead. That proved important, as Burlington drove on the ensuing possession, with Baker taking a quick draw play to the house for a TD, then running in the two-point conversion.
All 330 of the Grayhounds’ yards came on the ground. In fact, only one pass play was attempted, that ending in an intentional grounding.
“We tried to mix up our big fronts,” Harris said. “We got a six front, tried to stack up the line of scrimmage. But (Williams) is a heck of a player. A lot of times we just whiffed, and he got by us. He’s a good player.”
Harris pointed to three turnovers by his team as huge factors as well. There was a fumble after a first-down run inside the Burlington 40 in the second quarter, and two interceptions: one at the Grayhounds 5 and another in the end zone.
“Without a doubt. We had opportunities, right?” Harris said. “Opportunities were squandered by turnovers. When you lose by two, you look at those things. The turnovers were a big factor.”
Burlington 20, Iowa City Liberty 18
AT IOWA CITY
Burlington 6 6 8 0-20
Iowa City Liberty 7 8 3 0-18
- ICL-Christian Barney 21 pass from Tye Hughes (Emerson Bennett kick)
- B-Bryant Williams 56 run (run failed)
- B-Williams 38 run (run failed)
- ICL-Darius Willis-Newell 4 run (Willis-Newell run)
- ICL-Bennett 22 FG
- B-Kanyae Baker 25 run (Baker run)
First Downs - Burlington 14, Liberty 20. Rushes-Yards - Burlington 43-330, Liberty 40-174. Passing Yards - Burlington 0, Liberty 158. Completions-Attempts-Interceptions - Burlington 0-0-0, Liberty 15-25-2. Punts-Avg. - Burlington 4-30.5, Liberty 1-31.0. Penalties-Yards - Burlington 10-84, Liberty 9-75. Fumbles-Lost - Burlington 1-1, Liberty 1-1.
Rushing - Burlington: Bryant Williams 22-218, Kanyae Baker 13-79, Noah Nixon 4-17, Nolan Simpson 4-16. Liberty: Darius WIllis-Newell 34-158, Tye Hughes 6-17.
Passing - Liberty: Tye Hughes 15-25-2-162.
Receiving - Liberty: Griffin Kraft 4-51, Christian Barney 3-44, Luke Meyers 4-43, Amari Thigpen 3-20, Ja’Quez Hall 1-4.
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