BRISTOL — Dustin Watson’s arrival at Liberty County provides more than just a boost to the passing game.
It’s also freed up the Bulldogs’ best athlete, Alex Marlowe, to make plays in space.
Both players were instrumental in Liberty County’s 35-28 home win over Chipley Friday night in a preseason football game. Marlowe scored three touchdowns, and Watson passed for two in the Bulldog victory.
The two Class 1A schools each enter the regular season next week with high expectations. Chipley, competing in District 3-1A, was the Class 1A state runner-up last fall. Liberty County is competing in District 4-1A and advanced to the Region 2-1A semifinals last year.
The Bulldogs looked like they were the team on the rise, however, and Watson’s presence at quarterback was a big reason why. Liberty County was a run-heavy team last year that ran into trouble when it faced third-and-long situations, in particular. Watson showed some ability to extend plays in the offensive backfield, and he looked sharp throwing the football.
A senior transfer from R.F. Monroe, Watson completed 5 of 9 passes for 105 yards.
“He’s going to increase our passing game,” said Marlowe, the Bulldogs’ quarterback last year. “We’re a lot more balanced now that we’ve got somebody who can throw the ball out there.”
Marlowe, who finished with 127 yards on 12 carries, took the ball 41 yards on a sprint around the left side on the game’s first play, and he scored a touchdown on a 7-yard run seven plays later to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead. Marlowe later added a 20-yard touchdown and a 5-yard touchdown run.
“He’s a great player,” Watson said. “He carried the team last year, and we’re going to keep him going.”
Chipley’s standout wingback, Kobe McCrary, was limited to 12 yards on four carries in the first half but singlehandedly brought the Tigers back into contention in the second half. He scored on impressive touchdown romps of 22, 37 and 34 yards, the last of which pulled Chipley within 35-28 with 2:01 left. He finished the game with 135 yards on 11 carries.
Liberty County survived a pair of onside kicks by the Tigers and finally were able to run out the clock and hang on.
“It’s a win my book,” Watson said.
Chipley turned the ball over on its first drive, the result of a snap over the head of quarterback Jordan Finch. Liberty County’s Jesse Williams pounced on the ball to give his team possession. The Bulldogs capitalized immediately as Watson threw a beautiful 33-yard touchdown pass to receiver Micheal Robinson for a 14-0 cushion.
Chipley halved its deficit early in the second quarter when Liberty County lost track of Tigers receiver Josh Pitts running downfield. Pitts hauled in a Jordan Finch pass and then raced 57 yards untouched to pull the Tigers within 14-7 with 10:27 left in the half.
That scoring play did little to deter Liberty County. The Bulldogs answered with a pair of touchdowns — Marlowe’s 20-yard reception and Dusty Young’s 3-yard plunge — before halftime to take a 13-point lead into the locker room through two quarters.
The Bulldogs finished the first half with 228 yards of offense, including 102 rushing yards by Marlowe. Chipley had 127 yards of offense before halftime.
Finch narrowly missed a few big plays with his arm and finished the game 9-for-21 passing for 117 yards. Pitts had three receptions for 76 yards.
- Chipley 0 7 7 14 — 28
- Liberty County 14 13 0 8 — 35
- LC: Marlowe 7 run (Dawson kick)
- LC: Robinson 33 pass from Watson (Dawson kick)
- Chip: Pitts 57 pass from Finch (Dilmore kick)
- LC: Marlowe 20 pass from Watson (Dawson kick)
- LC: Young 3 run (kick failed)
- Chip: McCrary 22 run (Dilmore kick)
- LC: Marlowe 5 run (Young pass from Watson)
- Chip: McCrary 37 run (Dilmore kick)
- Chip: McCrary 34 run (Dilmore kick)
- INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
- RUSHING — Chipley: McCrary 11-135, Oliver 8-40, Brock 7-18, Finch 1-1. Liberty County: Marlowe 12-127, Jenkins 11-50, Armstrong 9-40, Beckwith 4-22, Young 1-3, Watson 1-1.
- PASSING — Chipley: Finch 9-21-0 117. Liberty County: Watson 5-9-0 105.
- RECEIVING — Chipley: Pitts 3-76, McCrary 2-23, Oliver 2-14, Brock 1-6, Smith 1-(minus-2). Liberty County: Marlowe 2-38, Robinson 1-33, Swier 1-24, Brown 1-6.