By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
GREAT BEND — A second half rally by Liberal ended when a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness gave Great Bend new life, and the Redskins continued to chase the Panthers the rest of the night in a 43-36 loss.
Liberal trailed 21-8 at half but only needed one minute and 11 seconds to cut the deficit to five. Trenton Hammond capped the six-play, 60-yard drive with a 20-yard touchdown reception from Britton Abbott.
A beleaguered Angry Red defense forced what appeared to be a three-and-out on the following Great Bend drive when a Bryce Beck pass sailed 10 yards beyond his intended receiver on a long pass attempt. As the ball bounced on the turf, Hammond blind-sided the defenseless Panther receiver, and the 15-yard penalty gave the Panthers a first down.
And they made the Redskins pay.
Cliff Abbott took Hammond out for three plays after the unnecessary roughness play, but the Panthers went 70 yards on 12 plays and chewed up six minutes and scored a touchdown on a 15-yard run by Trent Uselton to stretch the lead to 29-16.
The two teams traded interceptions on their next possessions, and after Hammond picked a Beck pass and returned it to the six yard line, Rex Heronemus drove into the end zone on the first play to cut the Panther advantage to 29-24.
The Panthers recovered the ensuing onside and went 51 yards on eight plays in five minutes including a fourth-down conversion that ended with a 32-yard touchdown run by Greg Burley.
Liberal continued to chase, and Heronemus took over on the following drive with a run and two catches including a seven-yard touchdown reception that capped a eight-play, 55-yard drive that only took a minute and 46 seconds to cut the lead back to five points for the third time, 35-30.
With 3:58 remaining in the game, the Redskins defense couldn’t get a key stop.
Great Bend used a steady dose of power running to the right side with two lead blockers pushing the Redskins defense back for five-yard gains by Burley.
On a second-and-nine, Beck kept the ball around the left side, and several Redskin defenders missed tackles while Beck cradled the ball to prevent a turnover for a 10-yard gain and a first down, and Burley broke loose on the next play for a 38-yard touchdown and a 43-30 Panther lead with 1:19 to play.
Liberal drove 61 yards in 10 plays and scored on a one-yard plunge by Abbott with only 4.8 seconds remaining.
Liberal attempted an onside, but for the fourth straight week did not recover, and Great Bend held on for the 43-36 win.
The Redskins (3-3) will begin district play Friday when Goddard (1-5) makes the trip tot he Burial Grounds.