Heron O'Neal's game plan wasn't complicated.
All he wanted from his Salina Liberty starters was for them to build a comfortable lead, take the rest of night off and let their backups finish the job.
The Liberty scored on all five first-half possessions, held Queen City to negative yardage and even threw in a safety before intermission Saturday night as they cruised to a 50-18 non-league victory over the Asylum at Tony's Pizza Events Center.
"I was definitely happy to see the new guys get their opportunity to play and show what they can do," O'Neal after clearing his bench in the second half. "Now we can evaluate it and put in on film and see what's what from there."
The starters staked Salina to a 35-0 halftime advantage, piling up 156 yards before the break while holding Queen City to minus-13. Quarterback Tyrie Adams was 9 of 10 passing for 118 yards and three touchdowns, two of them to Ed Smith, while Tre Griffin ran for two more scores.
The second half belonged to the reserves, who did give up three touchdowns — one on a kickoff return — but overall kept the ball rolling
"It's great to see those (reserves) go out there and execute what we practiced and went over all week and bring it to fruition," said Smith, who in his one half of action caught three passes for 61 yards with touchdown receptions of 22 and 9 yards. "I like what I saw by the people who stepped up and they did a great job."
Here are three takeaways from a dominating victory by the Liberty (3-0), who return to Champions Indoor Football league play next Saturday with a trip to Billings, Montana, to face the expansion Outlaws.
Shaq attack leads the defense
Back-to-back plays by Shaq Bradford epitomized the Liberty's suffocating defensive effort in the first half.
With the Liberty already up 27-0 midway through the second quarter, Bradford broke free around the right end and crushed Queen City quarterback Jerrell Lovely for a 6-yard loss, narrowly beating fellow end Travis Taylor to the punch. On the next play, from the Asylum 1, Bradford brought down 265-pound tight end Kenshay Cunningham two yards deep in the end zone for a safety.
"I'm just trying to go 100% play in and play out," said Bradford, a former Kansas Wesleyan All-American. "I try to do my job.
"We've got dudes like Travis Taylor and Kori (Hurd) and Oso (Zack Reynoso), who do their job and make my job a lot easier."
The 5-foot-10, 220-pound Bradford has become a dynamic pass rusher in his second season with the Liberty. He has been equally effective coming off the edge to block kicks.
"He's a guy that last week that changed that whole game with Omaha blocking those three kicks and he got another block or two tonight," O'Neal said. "The sack he got there and then to turn around and get a safety on the very next play, he's starting to really understand this game and taking it to the next level."
All you need is Love
With Adams the only true quarterback on the Liberty roster, O'Neal has turned to former Oklahoma State receiver Anthony Love as the emergency backup.
Love showed that he was up to challenge, playing the entire second half and leading his team to two touchdowns. He completed 4 of 5 passes for 28 yards, including a 3-yard scoring strike to Theron Allen in the third quarter.
"I played (quarterback) basically all through high school but I didn't play any in college," said Love, a lefthander. "It was exciting. I had fun with it."
Love also rushed twice for 3 yards and in the first half caught two passes 43.
"He was my offensive player of the game because he made spectacular catches and he made great blocks," O'Neal said. "He plays special teams and then he comes in and plays quarterback and actually throws a pro touchdown.
"He's a kid that's very unselfish. He'll do anything for the team."