Liberty-Eylau has had an up and down season. Unpredictable and inconsistent, but they’re also the team that knocked off the number one ranked team in the state - in the very first round of the playoffs. If their game is up, Royse City may be facing its toughest test yet on the gridiron.

Liberty-Eylau won the Class 3A Division I State Football Championship in 1999. Their football team is coached by Pat Brady. The 2006 Liberty-Eylau Leopards have a 9-3 record. They came in second place in their district behind Atlanta. Also in their district is Mount Vernon, Pleasant Grove and Pittsburg.

The Leopards average 27 points per game and have scored 326 points this season. The Leopard defense gives up 16.4 points per game and has had 197 points scored against them.

The Leopard offense revolves around quarterback Will Middlebrooks, 6 feet 4 inches, 197 pounds (78-127-1 for 1,138 yards and 8 TD) and tailback LaMichael James, 5 feet 10 inches, 185 pounds (159 carries for 1096 yards and 13 touchdowns). He is a Barry Sanders style runner. Their defense is led by Stasik Vaughn (75 tackles), Devin Bruce (62 tackles) and Stedmon Dewberry (60 tackles).

The Leopards have rushed for 422 carries for 2372 yards and 29 touchdowns. They have completed 85 passes for 1,163 yards and eight touchdowns. Their offense averages 295 yards per game.

The Leopards began their season with a 14-13 win over class 4A Paris North Lamar. Middlebrooks had a 47 yard touchdown run and finished the night with 82 yards rushing. James had 127 yards in his first outing. North Lamar would end their season with an 8-3 record and a first round loss in the class 4A playoffs.

In Week 2, Liberty-Eylau beat up on the Center Roughnecks 35-0. The Leopards sacked the Roughnecks eight times. Their offense racked up 396 yards, 251 came from rushing. LeMichael James had 89 yards on 13 carries. It should be noted that Center was suffering from several injuries prior to the game. Center’s season ended with a 2-8 record.

In week 3, the Leopards tamed the Greenville Lions 32-14. Greenville took a 14-13 halftime lead, but the third quarter gave the Leopards 19 unanswered points. Greenville had a down season under a new coach with a 3-7 record.

Game 4 was a 35-7 loss to state ranked Wimberly. Middlebrooks went down with an ankle injury in the second quarter, but scored on a 52 yard touchdown run before his exit. Wimberly passed for 216 yards and two touchdowns against the Leopards. James, however had a big night with 143 yards on 17 carries. Wimberly is still alive in the playoffs with an 11-1 record.

Game number five was another loss to class 4A opponent Mount Pleasant. Both Middlebrooks and James were hampered by injuries and did not play against Mount Pleasant. However, Liberty-Eylau held the Tigers to just 154 yards of total offense. Mount Pleasant posted a 14-6 win over the Leopards as Liberty Eylau could muster only 86 yards without their star players. Mount Pleasant missed the playoffs with a 5-5 record.

In game 6, Liberty-Eylau beat class 4A Sulphur Springs 40-30. Liberty-Eylau jumped out to a 27-6 lead, but Sulphur Springs came roaring back to trail 33-30 in the second half. Backup running back James Batts rushed for 118 yards and James registered a 116 yard game. Middlebrooks completed his first two touchdown passes against Sulphur Springs. The Wildcats ended their season with a 2-8 record.

Game seven was the Leopards’ District 16-3A opener and they beat the Pittsburg Pirates 35-14. Both teams combined for over 800 yards of offense. LeMichael James scored three touchdowns and rushed for 147 yards. Middlebrooks completed 8 of 12 passes for 148 yards, scored on two scoring runs and registered 70 yards on the ground in 5 carries. Pittsburgh was Royse City and Liberty Eylau’s only common opponent with basically the same results. Pittsburg ended their season with a 2-8 record.

Liberty Eylau won their second game over Texarkana Pleasant Grove 35-14. Middlebrooks scored two touchdowns from three and six yards out. James was contained to only eight yards in the district contest. Pleasant Grove also outrushed the Leopards 181 to 109 in the game. However the Leopards capitalized on huge turnovers such as an interception return for a touchdown and a fumble recovery in the end zone. James did catch six passes for 47 yards in the contest. Pleasant Grove went on to have a 4-7 season and lost in the first round of the playoffs to Canton.

Number nine was a 35-13 victory over the Mount Vernon Tigers. Liberty-Eylau scored 35 points in the first half and then coasted. James scored scored two touchdowns and rushed for 121 yards. Middlebrooks tossed three touchdown passes and went 7 for 7 and 131 yards. Mount Vernon’s season ended with a dismal 2-8 record.

Game ten was for the District 16-3A championship with the powerful Atlanta Rabbits. The Leopards would lose 20-17 in overtime. Middlebrooks opened the scoring for the Leopards on a 41 yard touchdown toss to receiver Jermaine Waller. Atlanta recaptured the lead midway in the fourth quarter, but Middlebrooks responded with a 62 yard touchdown pass to James. James would end up with 80 rushing yards and Middlebrooks had 156 yards passing. The loss prevented Liberty-Eylau from capturing their third consecutive District Championship. Atlanta ended their season in the second round of the playoffs. Their season record was 6-6, they were 4-5 when they met Liberty-Eylau.

Liberty-Eylau sent a shockwave around the football-watching community when they upset the number one team in the state, Gilmer (10-1), 39-36 in the first round of the playoffs. They then won their second round against Tyler Chapel Hill (6-6) 31-20.

Now the Leopards have grabbed the attention of everyone.

They did it the hard way also as they came from being down to capturing the lead and holding off a Gilmer charge in front of 8,000 fans. Gilmer’s coach apologized to the players and fans for the loss. He said he knew Liberty-Eylau was the best 7-3 team around and he said that Gilmer was more prepared for the Leopards than anyone they had faced this season.

Middlebrooks passed for 170 yards against the Buckeyes and James rushed for 143 yards and three touchdowns. He also caught five passes for 58 yards, one of those receptions was for his fourth touchdown in the game. Gilmer’s season ended at 10-1.

In the second round of the Division I Class 3A playoffs the Leopards defeated Tyler Chapel-Hill 31-20 in Hallsville. A much closer game than the score indicates. Both were tied 13-13 at halftime and Chapel Hill was down by 5 and driving with three minutes to play when they fumbled and Liberty-Eylau recovered. LeMichael James scored three touchdowns and rushed for 104 yards on 15 carries. Chapel Hill passed for 237 yards and a touchdown against the Leopards. James caught three passes for 73 yards. Tyler Chapel Hill’s season ended with a 6-6 record.

Royse City (11-1) will play the Texarkana Liberty-Eylau Leopards (9-3) at Tyler Rose Stadium in Tyler, Texas at 2 p.m. this Saturday, Dec. 2. Royse City is the home team.

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