LIBERTY CENTER - T.J. Blanton almost single-handedly destroyed Liberty Center last night as Sandusky St. Mary caged the Tigers 29-12 in a Division VI high school football playoff game.
Blanton had passed for more than 1,000 yards this season and had run for another 1,000. Last night he completed only 5 of 13 passes for 85 yards, with one interception.
But he carried the ball 21 times for 261 yards and three touchdowns, and passed 51 yards to Berkley Meily for another. He repeatedly found success in faking to a running back, then keeping and cutting back.
With the Panthers holding only a 3-0 lead on Meily's 43-yard first-quarter field goal, Blanton changed the complexion of the game on two successive carries in the second quarter. He bolted 90 yards for a touchdown and then, on St. Mary's first play from scrimmage after Tate Slee had run two yards for a Tiger TD, Blanton racked up a 65-yard TD run.
Slee scored Liberty Center's other touchdown on a 34-yard run.
Turnovers were also a factor, as each team had one interception, but the Tigers lost three fumbles and the Panthers never turned the ball over on the ground. St. Mary finished with 322 yards rushing for a net total offense of 407 yards. Liberty Center had 214 rushing yards, led by Slee's 24 carries for 139 yards, and netted 347 yards total offense with 13 first downs to St. Mary's 12.
The Panthers were charged with only one penalty, for 15 yards. The Tigers were whistled down five times for 49 yards.
"We had a great senior class," Liberty Center coach Rex Lingruen said. "We lost a lot of good seniors from last year and these guys really stepped up.
"To go 9-2, that's a pretty good season in most cases.
"Unfortunately, this wasn't the way we wanted to finish.
"But we did a great job of senior leadership and these are kids we're going to miss, every one of them.''
St. Mary advances at 7-4 (with three of the four losses to playoff teams). Liberty Center ends its season at 9-2.