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Haynes triggers strong defensive effort as Liberty puts clamps on Troy

Haynes triggers strong defensive effort as Liberty puts clamps on Troy

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TROY, Mo. — Wyatt Haynes could not believe his eyes.

The Liberty High senior linebacker glanced down at the green turf — and saw a football lying near his feet.

"I thought the play was over, I look, and there it is," he said. "I was shocked."

But not too stunned to react.

Haynes alertly picked up the loose ball and promptly scampered 80 yards for a touchdown.

His second-quarter defensive play helped kick-start the Eagles to a hard-fought 12-10 win over Troy on Saturday in a non-league contest in the heart of Lincoln County.

Liberty (2-1) used a lock-down effort from its stop unit to bounce back from a mistake-plagued loss to rival Timberland eight days earlier.

"This is exactly what we needed," Liberty coach Ryan McMillen said.

Haynes turned in the play of the game, but he received plenty of help from his teammates. Senior defensive back Luke Linden and junior cornerback Alexander Fillner each picked off passes in the final 6 minutes and 39 seconds to seal the triumph.

"We have a motto — 11 helmets to the ball every time," McMillen said. "They embodied that today."

Liberty threw a blanket over a Troy offense that came into contest having scored 83 points over its first two games. The Eagles limited Trojans standout running back Zach Collins to 64 yards after he amassed 382 yards and five touchdowns in wins over Fort Zumwalt South and Warrenton.

Haynes gave the Eagles some early momentum with the heads-up effort. The Trojans were on the march in a scoreless game when quarterback Kayden Uhlmeyer coughed up the ball at the very end of a 5-yard run.

Players on both sides froze momentarily. Haynes was the first to react.

"He's a big-play guy," Liberty senior quarterback Blake Seaton said of Haynes. "All of our guys on that side of the ball are capable of doing things like that."

Haynes was all over the field all game long.

He amplified on the motto McMillen stresses.

"We call it, 'Eleven helmets, one poor soul,' " Haynes said.

Liberty managed just enough offense to complement its strong defensive effort. Seaton, who hit on five of eight passes for 75 yards in the second half, engineered an eight-play, 82-yard drive to start the third quarter. Junior running back Jordan Smith capped the march with a 50-yard gallop over the right side for a 12-3 lead.

Troy (2-1) battled back to within two points on a 2-yard TD run by KeShawn Jones early in the final period.

The Liberty defense took over from there with two interceptions on the Trojans' final two possessions.

"It was tough sledding," Troy coach Ryan Nesbitt said. "We need to find ways to move the football. Offensively, we have to play better."

Troy managed a 21-yard field from Mason Gessert on the final play of the first half to climb to within 6-3.

But Liberty dug in down the stretch.

"Our offense is going to (control) the clock and our defense is going to play tough," McMillen said. "That was the winning formula for us last year and that's our plan again this year."

The Eagles needed a bounce-back effort after giving up 17 unanswered points in the loss to Timerbland.

"We corrected all those things and came back with a four-quarter game," McMillen said. "That's what good football teams are going to do. They mess up one week, they fix it, and the next week they play better."

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