When Frisco Liberty junior Keldric Luster suffered a season-ending knee injury in the sixth game of last season, he was leading all Dallas-area quarterbacks in both passing and rushing yardage.
Three games into this season, Luster has rounded back into the form that made him a breakout star as a sophomore.
Luster passed for three touchdowns on 21-of-23 through the air for 268 yards and also rushed for 118 yards on 22 carries and a score, leading undefeated Liberty to a 43-36 win against Rock Hill in Thursday’s District 7-5A Division II opener at Kuykendall Stadium.
Luster threw for all three of his touchdowns during the second half, and it was the final one that had Redhawks fans oozing over their star quarterback.
With less than eight minutes remaining in the ballgame and Liberty holding onto an eight-point lead, Luster received the snap and rolled to his right. There were three times he could have been sacked on the play. But he maintained his balance and eventually found senior Lawson Towne wide open at the goal line and the two connected on a 22-yard passing play for a 43-28 Liberty lead.
“That was him making a play,” said Matt Swinnea, Liberty head coach. “That’s what he does. He’s such a high-character kid and gives it everything that he has. He’s a real leader for this team.”
The touchdown reception capped off a big game for Towne, who caught six balls for 107 yards. Senior Jack Bryan delivered a clutch performance with six receptions for 60 yards and also had first-half touchdown runs of 4 and 2 yards.
Liberty was playing without senior five-star wide receiver Evan Stewart, who missed Thursday’s game because of undisclosed reasons.
But in a game in which the two teams combined for 79 points and 913 yards of offense, it was a defensive play by Liberty senior cornerback Cameron Wooley that allowed the Redhawks (3-0, 1-0 district) to hang onto the lead for good.
Rock Hill senior quarterback Brenner Cox threw down field on the fourth play of the fourth quarter, but Wooley ran the correct route and intercepted Cox’s pass in the end zone, keeping Liberty in front, 36-30.
“He had been picked on a little bit all night and that was a chance for him to come up with a big play in the end zone,” Swinnea said. “One of the things about this team that the season has sort of shown is that they have been in some battles, and they don’t give up. We gave ourselves a chance tonight and got after it.”
Rock Hill (1-2, 0-1) showed all night that it wasn’t going to be a push-over despite being just a second-year program.
The running of senior tailback Donovan Shannon helped to keep the Blue Hawks on par with Liberty. He rushed 18 times for 107 yards and a 2-yard touchdown run at the 8:51 mark of the first quarter that gave Rock Hill a 7-0 lead.
The teams traded touchdowns on the game’s first four possessions.
After Bryan ran in from 4 yards out a short time later to tie the score at 7-7, Rock Hill senior Luke Knight hauled in the first of his two touchdown receptions on the night to give the Blue Hawks a 14-7 lead with 18 seconds left in the first quarter.
Knight caught three passes for 95 yards.
Rock Hill senior Ryan Threat had himself a night, catching seven balls for a game-high 157 yards.
Cox battled through some ups and downs to finish with 293 yards on 14-of-25 through the air with two touchdowns. He also showed off his legs, running for a 3-yard touchdown with 59 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Shannon ran in the ensuing two-point conversion to cut Liberty’s lead to 43-36.
Both teams scrambled to corral the ensuing kickoff, but Luster had possession of the ball at the bottom of the pile and Liberty ran out the remaining time on the game clock.
“Like I told the kids, it was like a playoff game,” said Mark Humble, Rock Hill head coach. “They’ve got a great team over there in Liberty and us battling back and forth like that was great. We’ve got to find a little more consistency to close out a team like Liberty.”