By TYLER HENRY
JC Post contributor
With just three games remaining on the regular-season calendar the Salina Liberty will head north for a Saturday rematch against the Sioux City Bandits.
The Bandits lead the CIF as the only undefeated team left standing at 7-0 while Salina comes in at 4-3, fresh off a tough loss to the Omaha Beef.
“I thought that was a great defensive ballgame,” Liberty HC Heron O’Neal said. “Our offense didn’t play as well as it needed to across the board and that was our worst offensive output since I’ve been here. That was an eye-opener and we’ll be looking to shake things up and maybe bring some new people in. We know what we need to do moving forward.”
Any future Salina success will hinge on new quarterback Vincent Espinoza, who still has the full confidence of the coaching staff despite a few recent lackluster performances.
“I think he's is settling in nicely,” O’Neal said. “This is his first real live-action with the indoor game and we’ve put a lot on him but he’s been about where we hoped he would be. He has to be better but we have to be better around him to fix this offense.”
The Liberty will need to look sharp this week against a Bandits team that boasts the top scoring offense (51.1 ppg) and the second-best scoring defense (31 ppga) in the CIF.
“They have a very physical defense and they’ve got Dajon Emory who’s one of the top three defensive linemen in this league,” he said. “Offensively quarterback Lorenzo Brown sat out last week but he should be ready to go and he’s a front runner for MVP in my opinion as a dual-threat who’s won five national titles.”
Despite missing a game Brown remains third in the league in almost every passing category, completing 60% of his passes for just shy of 800 yards, 18 touchdowns, and just two interceptions.
“We have to make plays when we have opportunities,” O’Neal said. “We can’t drop interceptions or miss chances to strip a ball and we have to be sound up front and in our linebacker core to stop the run.”
While the Salina offense has struggled at times this season, the defense has remained as steady as ever and enters this week as the most dominant in the league, holding opponents to just 26 points per game on average.
“I’ve been impressed with how our defense has stood by our offense in practices and in games despite the low output,” he said. “They could easily be pointing the finger but we haven’t had that at all and that togetherness has been great to see.”
Kickoff between the Liberty and Bandits is set for 7:05 pm in Sioux City and as always, the game can be heard on KINA (910 AM or 107.5 FM) courtesy of Eagle Radio.