Entering this season, one of the games the Mountain Grove Panthers football team had circled on their schedule was a week six match-up with Liberty (Mountain View).
After all, the Eagles had beaten the Panthers every season since Liberty won the district title in 2013 with a seven point win.
Fortunately for the Panthers, that streak came to an end Friday night as both the offensive and defensive lines dominated Liberty for a convincing 36-16 victory.
Mountain Grove had 368 total yards of offense in the win, including 144 in the air and 224 on the ground.
Meanwhile, Liberty had just 19 yards of offense in the second half.
The Eagles had 98 yards passing and 49 yards rushing for 147 total yards.
It appeared early that Liberty’s speed would be too much for Mountain Grove.
In just 2:13, the Eagles marched 60 yards on five plays and scored on a 29-yard touchdown pass. A successful two-point conversion gave the Eagles an 8-0 lead.
In Mountain Grove’s first possession that started on their own 31, they were able to convert a 3rd-and-12 on quarterback Tyson Elliott’s pass to Hollen Glenn followed by Isiah Hellbusch’s big seven yard run on fourth down.
Four plays later, Elliott connected with Drew Vaughan for a 31-yard touchdown pass. Vaughan’s two-point run tied the game at 8-8.
The Eagles responded on their next drive with a big 46-yard passing play to reach the Panthers’ 8.
Liberty would reach the 4 before Gaven Moore knocked down two passes on consecutive downs in the area of the end zone to end the threat.
Though backed up deep in their own territory, Mountain Grove’s offense responded to the challenge.
They marched 96 yards on 10 plays to score their second touchdown of the game. During the drive, Elliott connected with Glenn on a 27-yard passing play. Glenn and Hellbusch then added back-to-back 13-yard carries.
With the ball inside the red zone, Hellbusch had a 12-yard run and a seven yard touchdown run with 8:15 left in the first half. His two-point run pushed the lead to 16-8.
On the following kickoff, Gus MacPherson made a big tackle that set the tone for the defense.
He followed the big tackle 10 plays later by extending his body on a diving interception of a pass over his shoulder near midfield to give the Panthers back the ball.
Mountain Grove’s offense would take advantage as the line continued its dominance up front.
Nine plays later, Elliott connected with Vaughan for a 21-yard touchdown pass.
The two-point run failed, keeping the score at 22-8.
With 1:49 left in the first half, the Eagles took advantage of three kickoff attempts that ended with the Eagles having the ball on Mountain Grove’s 45. On their first play, the Eagles had a 45-yard touchdown pass. Their two-point conversion closed the lead to 22-16.
At this time, a lightning delay put the game on hold until after 10 p.m.
A couple of quick plays for the Panthers pushed the game into the second half.
With the rain coming down in buckets in the third quarter, though the new turf field held up well, the offenses for both teams struggled.
Perhaps the biggest highlight of the frame was Brendan Rogers’ nearly 60-yard punt was downed at the Liberty 2.
Late in the third quarter, the Panthers started a drive that was around six minutes long and went into the fourth quarter.
Hellbusch ended the drive with 10:19 left in the game on his five yard touchdown run. Glenn’s two-point run pushed the lead to 30-16.
MacPherson’s and Glenn’s back-to-back pass deflections were key to Liberty’s following three-and-out.
With 3:33 left in the game, Rogers picked off a Liberty pass to help the Panthers’ offense set up on the Eagles’ 28.
Elliott capped off the short drive with a three yard touchdown run. Mountain Grove would go on to win the game by 20.
Elliott finished the game by completing 12-of-14 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns. He also had eight carries for 18 yards and a touchdown.
Vaughan had three catches for 59 yards and two scores.
Glenn’s big day included 19 carries for 98 yards and four catches for 55 yards.
Hellbusch had a career game with 17 carries for 98 yards and two scores. Dowden added four catches for 26 yards.
Up next for the Panthers is a road game in Salem on Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. The Tigers just picked up their first win of the season last week with a 30-12 victory over Willow Springs. This season, Salem has lost to St. Clair (19-12), Houston (20-13), Thayer (47-6) and Ava (45-6).