Most Viewed Stories
Johnson runs for 389 yards as Mesa Ridge erases 28-point deficit at Liberty
Devante Johnson had already rushed for 384 yards. Of course his coach was going to ask for three more.
Johnson followed his fourth long touchdown by powering in a 2-point conversion that completed a mind-blowing road comeback as Mesa Ridge scored the game’s final 35 points and stunned Liberty 44-37 on Saturday.
“I was thinking I could pound it in there; just use all my strength and get it in there and just go for the victory,” said Johnson, who finished with 389 yards on 26 carries and the 2-point conversion with 1 minute, 44 seconds remaining after his 66-yard sprint put the Grizzlies within a point.
Johnson's long runs had already included bursts of 80, 73 and 64 yards before the final touchdown against a Liberty (1-1) defense desperately clinging to its lead and knowing exactly what to expect.
Mesa Ridge (2-0) added a gimme touchdown when the Lancers allowed Gilbert Morris to go in untouched as it had no other way to stop the clock with enough time to get the ball back.
“It’s just a weird game, man,” said Liberty coach Jaron Cohen, whose team went up 37-9 when quarterback Tyler Carr scored his fourth touchdown with 8:16 remaining in the third quarter. “We didn’t tackle well enough, we had too many turnovers and some bad penalties. We just didn’t play clean football and you’re not going to beat a good team playing like that.”
Mesa Ridge coach Rob Braaten couldn’t recall a game or a comeback quite like that in his long career.
“Twenty-one years, and I don’t know that I’ve been that far down and come back and won,” Braaten said. “I don’t know, gray hairs are jamming up the brain. But it’s as good as they come. It’s as fun as any I remember.”
Johnson, a 5-foot-6, 170-pound “ball of muscle,” according to one of his coaches, kept finding lanes to the outside and proved extremely difficult to catch once in the open field.
“I’ve never seen a 5-foot-6 running back like Devante move his little legs that fast,” said Mesa Ridge quarterback Travis Pond, who also played a key role in the comeback.
Always known as a running team under Braaten, Mesa Ridge needed several big plays from Pond as time ticked away in the fourth quarter. Pone responded with a 16-yard completion to Gilbert Morris on a 4th-and 15 and then hit tight end Cameron VanDeCasteel for a 10-yard touchdown three plays later.
“He's got a good arm," Braaten said. "But because we run the ball so well we don’t ask him to throw the ball that often. But when we do he steps up for us.”
The comeback obscured a remarkable performance by Liberty quarterback Tyler Carr, who has been forced to shoulder much of the offense’s load after knee injuries have knocked out senior playmakers Justin Richardson and Tyler Wieman for the season.
Carr had a hand in all five Lancers touchdowns and most of its 360 total yards. He ran for 107 yards and four scores and passed for 231 and the other touchdown. But he completed just four passes in the second half and his two late interceptions gave the ball and momentum to Mesa Ridge.
The game gave all kinds of hints that it would be a wild one, including a second-quarter flurry that saw three touchdowns in the span of four snaps and 26 seconds. But when Liberty expanded its lead to 31-9 with Carr’s final score in the third quarter it seemed to be over.
It just never seemed that way to Mesa Ridge.
“We go until our hearts say we can’t,” said Johnson, who is more than halfway to 1,000 yards (549) after just two games. “We had the confidence to come back and I knew we could come back. We had a talk in the locker room that we could come back and we would just go play our hearts out.”