In a game bursting with offense, it was a stand by the Frisco Liberty defense in the fourth quarter that sealed the Redhawks’ victory Friday against Frisco Memorial.
The Redhawks and Warriors combined for 109 points and more than 1,100 yards at Toyota Stadium, but a final stand late in the fourth quarter on fourth down - on its own 2-yard line, no less - preserved a 58-51 win for Liberty in an early-season District 7-5A Division II matchup.
Sophomore quarterback Keldric Luster accounted for seven total touchdowns - five rushing - and the Redhawks tallied 682 total yards in an offensive shootout of a game that had a little bit of everything: big defensive stops, turnovers, offensive fireworks, and even a few special teams scores.
Luster gave the Redhawks the lead, 58-51, with eight minutes remaining when he burst through the line on fourth down and rumbled 65 yards for a touchdown, his fifth rushing score of the game. Liberty then stopped Memorial quarterback Ethan Lollar on a fourth-down scramble attempt at the 2-yard line on the Warriors’ ensuing offensive possession.
Luster and the Liberty offense then ran the clock down to zero.
“We really challenged our guys on defense at halftime, and I was proud of the way they responded,” said Matt Swinnea, Liberty head coach. “That stop on fourth-and-goal was absolutely huge. I’m really, really proud of our guys.”
Lollar completed his first 12 passes of the game before finally throwing an incompletion. The Warrior quarterback finished with 322 yards passing and three scores. As a team, Memorial gained 509 yards and 22 first downs, but committed eight penalties for 60 yards.
A sign of how potent both offenses were on Friday: The score was tied at 51 at the end of the third quarter. However, in a nod to the defenses, only one combined touchdown was scored in the fourth quarter.
The Redhawks claimed their first lead of the game in the third quarter on Luster’s fourth touchdown run and subsequent two-point conversion, making the score 51-44. The Redhawks’ defense then forced a stop on Memorial’s ensuing possession, but Liberty muffed the punt, and it was recovered by the Warriors’ special teams.
Memorial punched the ball in quickly, taking advantage of the short field and tying the score back up at 51.
Garren Huey scored three rushing touchdowns on 86 yards for the Warriors. Zion Steptoe, Jackson Schoolcraft, and Jeremy Lau all caught touchdown receptions for Memorial. The Warriors as a team scored three touchdowns in the first quarter.
Evan Stewart caught six passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns for Liberty. Connor Hulstein pulled in five catches.
But the story of the game was Luster, who was unstoppable running the ball with 258 yards and the aforementioned five scores. He also completed 17-of-19 passes for 306 yards and two touchdowns, both to Stewart. His 65-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter was mesmerizing, as the sophomore sprinted seemingly untouched for Liberty’s go-ahead score. By game’s end, Liberty - led by Luster - had averaged 9.08 yards per carry.
“He’s incredible,” Swinnea said. “He is a special player with a heart of gold. His talent is great, but I think it’s his competitiveness that sets him apart.
Special teams produced fireworks in the contest: Memorial’s R.J. DeMadet ran a kickoff back 91 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, giving the Warriors a 30-21 lead. The Warriors also scored a safety when, on a missed field goal attempt, Liberty committed a penalty in its own end zone.
Memorial also grabbed a first-quarter first down when it executed a fake punt on fourth down.
“Keldric Luster is the real deal,” said Derrick Roberson, Memorial head coach. “Liberty was able to force some critical stops and we couldn’t convert late in the game. They stopped us late and that was the play of the game. We must be able to execute in the second half.”