Javin Kilgo, Demarius Washington and Tracy Brooks spark Salina Liberty offense in blowout
After guiding the Liberty to a road upset of league leader Sioux City in his debut last week, Kilgo was even better Saturday in a 62-26 Champions Indoor Football blowout victory over the Topeka Tropics at Tony's Pizza Events Center.
Then again, Kilgo had plenty of help, finding favorite receiving target Demarius Washington for four touchdowns, while running back Tracy Brooks returned from injury to rush for three more.
"With these guys, they make it easy," said Kilgo, who arrived in Salina just two days before the Sioux City game and is still learning the Liberty playbook. "Coach (Heron O'Neal) preached to me when I got here to just do my job, so I go out here and he gives me the offense and he trusts me to do my job."
Kilgo did that and more against winless Topeka (0-9), completing 13 of 19 passes for 196 yards and four touchdowns, all to the 6-foot-5 Washington.
"There's still a few bumps in the road and we're still getting used to each other a little, but I've only been here a week and a half, so our chemistry will only get better, and our chemistry will only get better as an offense as long as we continue to play like we do and execute."
Kilgo and Washington already had chemistry as former teammates, first at Duke City from 2018-19, and again with Cedar Rapids two years ago. But in those previous stops, Kilgo was a backup.
"My rookie year at Duke City, he took me under his wing and taught me a lot of the game from a receiver's perspective and a quarterback perspective," Kilgo said of Washington. "So I've got nothing but respect for him.
"So, me coming here with him here was a no-brainer. It made it a lot easier."
More:Demarius Washington's circus catch sparks resurgent Salina Liberty offense at Sioux City
In fact, Kilgo heeded some advice Washington gave him in that rookie season with Duke City.
"He was joking, but I think he was serious," Kilgo said with a smile. "He said, 'Look left, look right (and then) throw it up to me. I've got you.'
"He hasn't failed me yet."
Washington, who also caught two touchdown passes in the Sioux City game, likes what he has seen from Kilgo so far.
"He's always been a backup, and so he's taking the role of being a starter and he's presented himself very well," Washington said. "The chemistry has always been there, and I've always been on him since he was a rookie and teaching him how to read everything.
"But now him putting it in place makes it a lot easier."
Also making things easier for the offense was the return of Brooks, last year's CIF rushing leader and most valuable player. Brooks broke his arm early in the March home opener, but came back in midseason form with eight carries for 49 yards, including touchdown runs of 1, 5 and 6 yards.
"I'm just blessed to play the game I love," said Brooks, who wore a soft cast on his left arm and still was effective. "People said I couldn't do it, but I wanted to fight back and get out there.
"I would say on the first kickoff I was nervous, just because of (the injury), but after that, it was just like any other game. You know the risk that you take every week you strap it up, but I was even more motivated to get back and prove to myself that I could do it."
With the victory, the Liberty took sole possession of third place at 6-3, a half-game behind second-place Billings (6-2) and a half-game in front of Omaha (5-3). Billings plays host to Sioux City and Omaha travels to Rapid City on Monday.
More importantly, with Kilgo as the trigger man and Brooks in the backfield, the Liberty offense is back to what O'Neal envisioned at the start of the season.
"To have Javin, where we have a quarterback who understands what we're trying to get accomplished throwing the football, it opens up everything offensively," O'Neal said. "We're still not where we need to be offensively because we still have more to teach him.
"That's why it was important to let him play this whole game, to kind of see what he can and can't do."
And then there was Brooks returning to the lineup and picking up where he left off last year.
"Three touchdowns was our goal, and as soon as he got his third, we told him he was done for the game," O'Neal said. "This should give him all the confidence moving forward.
"I love Tre (Griffin) and I love Tristan (Gould), and they've done a great job carrying that torch, but they're not Tracy Brooks. Tracy Brooks is the MVP and he's the leading rusher (in the CIF) the last two years in this league, so to get him back is something I'm tickled pink about."
Overall, the Liberty racked up 275 yards total offense. In addition to the seven touchdowns from Washington and Brooks, they got a 17-yard scoring run from Gould in the fourth quarter, plus a 25-yard fumble return from Kendrick Harper in the third.
Defensively, the Liberty dominated early and held Topeka to 117 yards total offense, but 90 of those yards came on four Devond Blair touchdown passes. Salina did force four turnovers, including three interceptions.
"We should have had at least another two or three interceptions and we busted a couple of coverages that we don't usually bust, so we have some things that we definitely have to work on for the first time in probably five weeks," O'Neal said of a defense that leads the league and kept the Liberty in games where the offense struggled for much of the season. "But the plays were there to be made, we just didn't make them."
The Liberty close the regular season next Saturday at Dodge City against the Southwest Kansas Storm (5-4), which is coming off a loss to Wyoming. If they win that game, they are guaranteed no worse than the No. 3 seed in the six-team postseason playoffs.
SALINA LIBERTY 62, TOPEKA TROPICS 26
S—Washington 1 pass from Kilgo (Allen kick), 9:43
S—Brooks 1 run (Allen kick), 5:40
S—Brooks 5 run (Allen kick), 13:15
S—Washington 41 pass from Kilgo (Allen kick), 4:57
T—Martinez 31 pass from Blair (kick blocked), 2:36
S—Washington 19 pass from Kilgo (Allen kick), 0:55
T—McNair 37 pass from Blair (kick failed), 0:21
S—Harper 25 fumble return (Allen kick), 10:00
S—Brooks 6 run (kick blocked), 1:07
T—Taylor 18 pass from Blair (Tapia pass from Blair), 11:44
S—Washington 6 pass from Kilgo (run failed), 6:06
T—Martinez 4 pass from Blair (run failed), 1:40
S—Gould 17 run (Allen kick), 1:14