Salina Liberty to face Omaha in rematch of last year's CIF Champions Bowl

Nobody has to remind Salina Liberty quarterback Tyrie Adams how it felt to walk off the field last year after a Champions Bowl loss to the Omaha Beef.

"It's always something that's in the back of our heads," Adams said of the 40-39 heartbreaker that ended with Omaha blocking a short Liberty field goal attempt in the closing seconds. "We take it very seriously, especially since that was our only home loss, and it was in the championship game."

Salina will get its first shot at the Beef since that season-ending loss when Omaha visits Tony's Pizza Events Center at 6:35 p.m. Saturday for the Liberty's Champions Indoor Football home opener.

"There's definitely some extra drive going into that game, but at the end of the day, it's also just the next game," said Adams, one of eight holdovers from last year's Liberty.

Both teams come into the game at 1-0. Omaha opened its season two weeks ago with a 38-16 home victory over the Southwest Kansas Storm, while the Liberty beat the expansion Topeka Tropics, 54-33, in Topeka.

The fact that Omaha quarterback Andrew Jackson and several of his top receivers previously played for the Liberty, added to the intrigue of last year's championship game. And the Beef have roughly half of their roster back this season.

"They're the defending champions, and until somebody beats them we have to give them that respect," said Liberty coach Heron O'Neal. "They've earned that right as champions.

"They beat us last year, fair and square. But you're not going to see us bowing down to them or anything like that. We'll put our best foot forward.

The Liberty got off to a shaky start last week at Topeka, especially on defense, but took control in the second half by limiting the Tropics to six points after intermission. The offense was effective all night, with rookie running back Tre Griffin rushing for three touchdowns and Adams throwing for four.

"I feel good about or offense," said Adams, last year's CIF offensive rookie of the year. "We've got a good (offensive) line, a two-headed monster at running back and receivers who are big and fast and can make plays."

Griffin played the first half against Topeka before giving way to veteran Tracy Brooks, the league's most valuable player a year ago.

The defense broke down several times in the first half, especially in the secondary, but made the necessary adjustments at halftime.

"I've got a lot of faith in our defense," Adams said. "We just had to fix a couple of mistakes."

Liberty make roster moves

The Liberty made a pair of roster moves after the opener, releasing offensive lineman Dayquan Thornton and veteran kicker Jimmy Allen, last year's CIF special teams player of the year.

To take their place, they signed offensive lineman Aleki Tapa from Adams State, and former Kansas Wesleyan kicker Michael Pursley, who last played for the Coyotes in 2016.