By Jim Flick
The Wildcats were within 26-14 when Charles Perdue returned an interception.
STRUTHERS — Fitzgerald Toussaint scored four touchdowns on long runs Friday to lead Liberty to a 32-14 win over Struthers.
Toussaint opened the scoring with a 72-yard scamper in the first quarter, scored a second-quarter touchdown from 35 yards out, and added scoring runs of 57 and 37 yards in the second half.
The University of Michigan recruit carried the ball 19 times for 258 yard, boosting his rushing total to 843 yards after only four games.
Senior Joe Balog carried Struthers’ offense. He gained 137 yards on 35 carries. In the first half, he played running back, but in the second half he quarterbacked for the Wildcats.
While running Struthers’ offense, Balog mixed running and passing the ball, completing six of 11 passes for 80 yards.
Liberty led 21-0 in the third quarter before Struthers ended the shutout.
Toussaint “ran hard, he ran through some tacklers,” Liberty coach Jeff Whittaker said. “He’s got great speed, great acceleration.”
When asked to explain his success against Struthers, Toussaint replied modestly, “The line played well, and good coaching.”
Liberty “is a good football team, and we know they’ve got a great back,” Struthers coach Dallas Saunders said. “We knew we’d have to tackle well. Sometimes we did, but too often we didn’t.”
Toussaint “runs angry,” Saunders said. “He’s not brought down by first contact. Even when we were on him, he made things happen.”
Toussaint started the scoring on a one-play touchdown drive late in the first quarter. On the first play from Liberty’s 28-yard line, Toussaint burst up the middle, fought, dodged and outran Wildcats tacklers as he headed for the end zone.
In the second quarter, Toussaint ended a seven-play Liberty drive when he scored on a 35-yard run. After Toussaint’s 57-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, Liberty built a 20-0 lead.
Struthers ended the shutout in the third quarter. The Wildcats punted and a Liberty player fumbled the punt near the goal line. Jermayne Brooks recovered the ball in the end zone to score Struthers’ first touchdown. After John Fedorek kicked the extra point, Struthers trailed 20-7.
But Toussaint scored again, this time on a 37-yard run, to boost Liberty’s lead to 26-7.
Late in the third quarter, Terrance Myers scored on a –yard run and Fedorek added the extra point to cut Liberty’s lead to 26-14.
Struthers, with Balog as quarterback, rallied in the fourth quarter. But Liberty’s Charles Perdue snagged a pass attempt by Balog and returned the interception 42 yards for the game’s final touchdown.
Struthers again neared the end zone in the game’s final minutes, and gained a first-and-goal from Liberty’s 8-yard line. But the Leopards frustrated the Wildcats’ drive in the final minutes, stopping Struthers’ drive and taking over on down in the game’s final minutes.
Whittaker praised the Leopards’ defense, which intercepted three Struthers passes. “We bent, but we didn’t break,” Whittaker said. “When we come to Struthers, it’s never easy. The kids played hard till the very last.”