High school football: Liberty-Benton holds off Pandora-Gilboa

PANDORA – Liberty-Benton withstood a fierce comeback attempt by Pandora-Gilboa on Friday night to take a 33-28 victory, earning sole possession of first place in the Blanchard Valley Conference.

“We saw what they’re made of,” Liberty-Benton coach Scott Garlock said of P-G. “They’re going to come back and battle, no matter what. They could’ve been down five touchdowns at halftime, and we knew how this was going to end. But our kids stepped up and made some huge plays when we had to.”

The Eagles (7-1, 5-0 BVC) saw the Rockets roar back and take a fourth-quarter lead with 3:32 remaining, on a short wheel route that P-G’s Ben Burkholder busted open for a 34-yard touchdown run and a 28-27 lead.

That lead wasn’t safe for long, though, as six plays later, the Eagles’ Seth Elchert hauled in a pass on a stop-and-go route before streaking down the left side of the field for a 53-yard scoring play from quarterback Mason Modd.

“We knew the safety was going to bite on the hitch, since we threw so many hitches tonight,” said Elchert, who had 11 catches for 177 yards. “I just trusted my quarterback Mason on it.”

Modd completed 17 of 26 passes for 280 yards and three passing touchdowns despite wet, windy conditions for most of the game. He also had 22 carries for 94 yards rushing. Zach Elchert rushed for 51 yards and three touchdowns.

The Rockets, who trailed by 14 at halftime, looked like they might have one more comeback in them. They drove the ball to Liberty-Benton’s 38 with 46 seconds left before trying some trickery, with running Ben Burkholder heaving a pass downfield that Modd picked off.

“It was a bad call. Let’s just call it what it was,” said Pandora-Gilboa coach Matt Hershey. “It was stupid. You know, we’re hoping that since we had timeouts left, we might be able to just sneak one past him and throw up a good ball to our star receiver, Aiden Morris, and have him make a play for us. It was tough sledding out there, and we were running out of time.”

Liberty-Benton played phenomenal defense on Morris all game. Morris, who averages 88 yards receiving every game, only had two catches for 29 yards. The high-powered Rocket offense didn’t complete a pass in the first half, although quarterback Cory Gerten got on track in the second half and completed 14 of 25 passes for 156 yards and two interceptions.

The Rockets (5-3, 3-1 BVC) found other ways to get him involved, though, as he ran seven times for a team-high 79 yards. Andrew Miller added 17 carries for 65 yards and wo second-half touchdowns. Ben Burkholder had nine carries for 50 yards,including a rushing touchdown in the first quarter and a 34-yard catch in the fourth quarter.

“Our kids played well. Our kids battled,” Hershey said. “We just came up a few plays short, and as coaches we have to do a better job of putting them in positions that they can be successful.”

Game summary

Liberty-Benton Pandora-GIlboa

15 First downs 17

418 Total yards 337

138 Rushing yards 181

280 Passing yardage 156

17-26-1 Passing 14-26-3

2-1 Fumbles-Lost 0-0

3-32 Punts 4-35.5

3-25 Penalties 0-0

Score by quarters:

Liberty-Benton 7 14 0 12 — 33

Pandora-GIlboa 7 0 7 14 — 28

First quarter

P-G-Ben Burkholder 8 run (Skylar Richardson kick), 7:53

L-B-Mason Modd 1 run (Garrett Nealis kick), 3:05

Second quarter

L-B-Zach Elchert 29 pass from Mason Modd (Garrett Nealis kick), 11:46

L-B-Zach Elchert 22 run (Garrett Nealis kick), 3:14

Third quarter

P-G-Andrew Miller 6 run (Skylar Richardson kick), 0:38

Fourth quarter

L-B-Zach Elchert 19 pass from Mason Modd (Garrett Nealis kick blocked), 10:23

P-G-Andrew Miller 1 run (Skylar RIchardson kick), 6:22

P-G-Ben Burkholder 34 pass from Cory Gerten (Skylar Richardson kick), 3:32

L-B-Seth Elchert 53 pass from Mason Modd (run failed), 2:07

David Trinko wrote this story for LimaScores.com. Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.