By TYLER HENRY
Salina Post contributor
The Salina Liberty exacted some revenge and handled their business at home on Saturday, defeating the Sioux City Bandits by a final score of 48-39.
With this win, the Liberty move to 7-2, sliding into a tie for second with Gillette, while the Bandits fall both to 5-4, and to fifth place, dropping below the Billings Outlaws.
Salina has now secured a top-three seed and will play in a head-to-head matchup with the Mustangs on Saturday, May 27th with a first-round bye and the right to host a semifinal on the line.
Meanwhile, the Bandits will hit the road for one final game with the first-place Omaha Beef, who remain undefeated at 9-0 and have secured the 1-seed in this year’s CIF playoffs.
This contest saw Salina fall behind early, but rally to take a 13-6 lead just after the first quarter of play.
Sioux City would rattle off back-to-back scores to re-assert an 18-13 advantage, but on the strength of an Ed Crouch scramble drill the Liberty reclaimed the lead and never looked back, outscoring the Bandits 35-21 the rest of the way.
Much of that damage was done during a stretch where Salina would not be stopped on offense, and completely shut the Bandits down on defense, culminating in a colossal 29-6 run in the heart of this game.
Both quarterbacks were surprisingly quiet, as Ed Crouch and Tasleem Wilson combined to toss just three touchdown passes and coughed up four picks on a day when many expected to see a shootout.
With the air taken out of the football, the Liberty went to work on the ground and proved just how dynamic the 1-2 punch of Crouch and Tracy Brooks can be as that duo racked up 158 yards and seven total touchdowns without the aid of a single pass.
The last of those rushing scores would prove to be a very special one indeed for Tracy Brooks, as it was the former league MVP’s 100th career CIF touchdown.
Salina will be back in action to close out the regular season at 7pm in Gillette Wyoming on Saturday, May 27th.