Prep Football

Iowa City Liberty football earns first varsity victory in stadium debut

Lightning (1-1) score three first-quarter TDs in 18-6 win over Waterloo East

NORTH LIBERTY — The first shovel plunged into the dirt in March of last year.

About a dozen prospective Iowa City Liberty football players gathered that day for a ceremonial first dig to kick-start construction of their future on-campus stadium.

Friday night, they broke it in with style.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Liberty Athletics Director Mike Morrison said before the Lightning posted the first varsity football victory for the program, 18-6 over Waterloo East, before a boisterous crowd in the first home opener at second-year Liberty High School. “I think this community has been waiting for this for quite a while. Obviously we’ve got a great crowd. … I’m just excited to be a small part of it. It’s really satisfying to see our community show up here today and support our kids. I know all of our kids, from our cheerleaders to dance team to football guys to track, P.E., they’re all excited about being out here.”

Liberty (1-1) started the game with the first of two successful onside pooch kickoffs in the first quarter, which delighted the home crowd.

“It started with our coaches,” Liberty Coach Jeff Gordon said. “Spend so much time watching film, it is just something they saw. It’s something that we’ve done in the past. It worked once. … We’ll just keep doing it until it stops.”

Both surprise onside attempts resulted in first-quarter touchdown drives. Liberty junior tailback Jack Ankenbauer carried the ball on all six plays of the opening drive, which ended with a two-yard plunge into the end zone for a 6-0 lead just over two minutes into the game.

“Our offensive line was just doing a really good job blocking,” Ankenbauer said. “Blocking to the whistle. I give all my credit to them. They were great.”

The second touchdown drive was set up by the Liberty defense, which forced four turnovers. The first was an interception by junior defensive back Ben Kruger, which he returned to the Waterloo East 16-yard-line.


“It was just a burst of energy on that play,” Kruger said. “I saw him break down the middle, so I had to pounce on that. I got that at the right time. I just made a play and I think that got us going.”

After a penalty, a 19-yard completion from Liberty quarterback Drake Woody to receiver Dawson Zimmerman got the ball to the Waterloo East 2, where Ankenbauer finished off the drive with another two-yard TD, and the Liberty lead was 12-0 midway through the opening frame.

Ankenbauer finished the game with 35 rushes for 125 yards.

“I love embracing that role,” Ankenbauer said. “Just something I love to do.”

The Liberty special teams followed up the second Ankenbauer TD with the aforementioned second onside pooch kickoff, which the Lightning recovered at the Waterloo East 46. A 28-yard strike from Woody to junior receiver Ben Houselog was the big play of the drive, which ended with a two-yard TD run by sophomore tailback Max Tafolla, who finished the game with 72 yards with 18 carries.

With 1:46 left in the first quarter, the Liberty lead was 18-0. The Lightning attempted unsuccessful two-point conversions after all three touchdowns.

Waterloo East controlled much of the second-half action, but turned the ball over after two deep drives. Junior defensive lineman Tate Happel recovered a fumble inside the Liberty 10-yard-line in the third quarter, while junior defensive back Brian Lively intercepted a pass in the end zone in the fourth.

“We really needed that,” Lively said. “It kept our defense fresh and off the field. It gave our offense more times to score and it kept the clock running. We need to make sure our defense plays well next week, as well.

Waterloo East (0-2) avoided a shutout when quarterback Dylan Reyes tossed a 28-yard TD to Aidan Ernst with 4:52 left in the game.


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Waterloo East visits Webster City next Friday, while Liberty travels to Washington (Iowa). The Lightning will return to their home stadium Sept. 14 against Mid-Prairie.

“Extremely happy for the boys and the school, the community and the team,” Gordon said. “This was a special night. Whether we won or lost, it was going to be a special night, but extremely happy that the boys were successful.”


Iowa City Liberty 18, Waterloo East 6

Waterloo East 0 0 0 6—6

I.C. Liberty 18 0 0 0—18

ICL — Jack Ankenbauer 2 run (run failed)

ICL — Jack Ankenbauer 2 run (run failed)

ICL — Max Tafolla 2 run (run failed)

WE — Aidan Ernst 28 pass from Dylan Reyes (kick failed)

RUSHING — Waterloo East: Kendall Robinson 8-27, Dylan Reyes 10-(-29), KJuan Owens 1-(-6), Tavious Jenkins 1-8, Ahkil Muhammad 2-5; I.C. Liberty: Kaleb Williams 1-1, Jack Ankenbauer 35-125, Drake Woody 6-10, Max Tafolla 18-72.

PASSING — Waterloo East: Dylan Reyes 18-27-2-168; I.C. Liberty: Drake Woody 3-8-1-53.

RECEIVING — Waterloo East: Tyrell Newman 2-32, Tavious Jenkins 2-21, Ahkil Muhammad 2-18, Scott Bickel 1-9, Kendall Robinson 2-19, Aidan Ernst 3-50, Griffin Bender 4-22, Darion Sallis 1-3; I.C. Liberty: Dawson Zimmerman 2-25, Ben Houselog 1-28.

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