MELISSA – Melissa’s Cardinals overcame a sluggish start and a wave of penalties to down Argyle Liberty Christian, 42-30, on Aug. 31, at Cardinals Stadium in the season-opener for both teams. Cards quarterback Brendon Lewis threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 54 yards, including a bruising 25-yard scoring run in the third quarter. Melissa running back Ja’Bray Young roamed for 197 yards on 19 carries, with a tackle-shedding 64-yard touchdown sprint in the second stanza.


Young also tallied a third-quarter, 8-yard TD catch.


Leading Cardinal defenders included defensive end Collin O’Neal with nine stops, two tackles for a loss and a sack; defensive tackle Arshane Hines with eight tackles, two for a loss and a sack; and linebacker Conner Newberry, who posted nine stops, two for a loss.


Liberty Christian back Andre Washington rushed for 99 yards on 18 carries, logged nine catches for 99 yards and scored all four Warrior touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Daniel Greek, in his first varsity start, threw for 175 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.


Liberty Christian jumped out to a 10-0 first-quarter lead but the Cards soon soared to a 42-17 advantage after three periods. The Warriors rallied for two late touchdowns but by then Melissa’s surge had done its work.


“We faced some adversity and we didn’t get down,” 10th-year Cards head coach Seth Stinton said. “They were up on us … and we fought back. So I’m proud of the guys for what they did and how they fought back. That was important and that was good for us. … Brendon is a super athlete and he did his thing. I can’t say enough about what he did and how he played. Ja’Bray, he’s super strong. He was making plays all over the place.”


“We started off slow but we picked it up,” Brendon Lewis said. “Ja’Bray ran like a grown man. He ran like a real D-1 athlete.”


Said Liberty Christian head coach Steven Greek, “I am so proud of these young men for never quitting when it was 42-17 in the third quarter. Melissa is an outstanding team this year. They’re big in the trenches, they are physical with their run game, they have one of the most elite quarterbacks in the state and all the skill guys to throw to. Defensively, they’re big on the front line. Getting first downs against these guys alone is an accomplishment.”


This one had a little of everything: a blocked punt, an interception by a defensive lineman, a blocked point-after kick, explosive offensive bursts and, of course, those penalties — 22 by Melissa for 150 yards. “We’ve got to cut out the penalties,” Stinton said. “There were way too many. I think we had more penalty yards that we had offensive yards and that’s embarrassing. And there was some stuff on the sideline that I’m not very pleased with but I’m going to get that fixed. Overall, it’s a win.”


While Melissa’s penalty yardage didn’t actually surpass its offensive output, it certainly felt that way at times. On one occasion, the Cards’ offense drew penalties on three consecutive plays.


Melissa prevailed, though, thanks to 21-point outbursts in the second and third quarters. After Young’s 64-yard dash for the Cards’ first points of the season, Chance Mapps smashed off a Liberty Christian linebacker for a 21-yard touchdown - and Melissa’s first lead of the season, at 14-10. Then, seconds before halftime, Brendon Lewis found TCU-commit Kennedy Lewis open down the right side for a 47-yard scoring strike, a one-play drive set up by Cards defensive lineman Bralynn Ramsey’s tip and grab of a Liberty Christian pass. Ramsey snatched the ball with his right hand and returned it 24 yards to the Warriors’ 32 as Melissa’s bench went nuts.


“I was, like, ‘Oh my God, is this real?’ and I took off,” Ramsey said. “I was taking it all the way to the house. That was the first thing I thought about was ‘touchdown.’ … I saw the cornerback and I was like, ‘I can outrun him.’ He caught me but it’s still a turnover.”


Though the Cards’ sideline celebration leaked onto the field and cost the team 15 yards, the ensuing Brendon-to-Kennedy bomb quickly erased that damage.


Up, 21-10, the Cards fumbled away their first possession of the second half and Liberty Christian quickly cashed in with Washington’s 23-yard touchdown run to get to within 21-17. That’s when Brendon Lewis struck with his 25-yard TD scamper and followed up with scoring tosses to Chase Mapps and Young that effectively put the game away. On his touchdown run, Lewis broke two tackles ranging to his right. “I saw the corner,” he said. “He came low so I just ran him over and scored. Kennedy did a great job blocking — Junior [Castleberry] too.”


Liberty Christian posted the game’s blocked punt, getting a hand on the Cards’ first punt of the season in the second quarter. In business at Melissa’s 30-yard-line, the Warriors stalled in four-straight plays. The game’s blocked extra-point try came in the fourth quarter after Liberty Christian drew to within 42-23 on Washington’s 15-yard touchdown catch. BJ Lewis scooped the ball and nearly turned it into a point for Melissa but was corralled at the Warriors’ 25.


On the injury front, Cards offensive lineman Brian Blackwell was helped from the field in the third quarter with what appeared to be a right ankle or foot injury and did not return. No precise information on his condition was available after the game.


As for Melissa’s defensive performance this night, Ramsey said, “I feel like we held our own on the line for the most part. We busted a couple of coverages we’ve just got to work out this week. We’ll get it fixed.”


_______________________________________________________________


Melissa 42, Liberty Christian 30


Liberty Christian 3 7 7 14 - 30


Melissa 0 21 21 0 - 42


FIRST QUARTER


LC - Cameron Baller 43 FG, 9:36


SECOND QUARTER


LC - Andre Washington 36 pass from Daniel Greek (Baller kick), 11:42


M - Ja’Bray Young 64 run (Ferguson kick), 11:16


M - Chance Mapps 21 run (Ferguson kick), 5:34


M - Kennedy Lewis 47 pass from Brendon Lewis (Ferguson kick), 0:31


THIRD QUARTER


LC - Washington 23 run (Baller kick), 9:47


M - Brendon Lewis 25 run (Ferguson kick), 8:18


M - Chase Mapps 17 pass from Lewis (Ferguson kick), 3:43


M - Young 8 pass from Lewis (Ferguson kick), 0:29


FOURTH QUARTER


LC - Washington 15 pass from Greek (kick blocked), 11:57


LC - Washington 10 run (Baller kick), 10:12


Stats Lib. Christian Melissa


First downs 19 19


Rushes-yards 23-101 42-249


Passing yards 175 251


C-A-I 23-36-1 14-21-0


Punts-average 3-33.6 6-27


Penalties-yards 7-70 22-150


Fumbles-lost 1-0 4-1


Individual statistics


Rushing - Liberty Christian: Andre Washington 18-96, Daniel Greek 5-5; Melissa: Ja’Bray Young 19-197, Brendon Lewis 16-54, Chase Mapps 2-3, Brandon Murphy 2-0, Ian Keever 3-(-5).


Passing - Liberty Christian: Daniel Greek 23-36-1-175; Melissa: Brendon Lewis14-20-0-251, Ian Keever 0-1-0-0.


Receiving - Liberty Christian: Andre Washington 9-99, Galan Blake 5-37, Adam Johnson 3-18, Preston White 3-7, Galyean Grant 2-7, Collin Gamble 1-7; Melissa: Ja’Bray Young 3-84, Chase Mapps 3-20, Junior Castleberry 2-53, Tyler Burton 2-32, BJ Lewis 2-0, Kennedy Lewis 1-47, Chance Mapps 1-17.