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Game Recap

CIF Playoffs: Salina 81, Bismarck 51

Bernard leads Salina to win over Bucks in CIF playoffs

What started as a season of high expectations came to a crashing end on Saturday as the Salina Liberty beat the Bismarck Bucks 81-51 in the first round of the Champions Indoor Football playoffs.

Liberty quarterback Derrick Bernard carved up the Bucks’ defense as he accounted for 11 touchdowns – nine passing and two rushing. Bismarck (5-8) ends the season in a fashion similar to last year’s convincing first-round playoff loss.

Bernard was the key for the Liberty (10-3).

“Like I said the beginning of the season, there’s no ceiling for us, we’re still going up,” Bernard told the Salina Journal following the North Division semifinal game at Tony’s Pizza Events Center. “We left some things out there, I think. Eleven touchdowns, should’ve been 12. I’m excited.”

Salina plays Sioux City next Saturday at TPEC — the winner advancing to the championship game June 30 at the site of the higher seeded team.

Bernard’s was 19 of 28 passing for 200 yards with one interception. He completed passes to five different receivers. Julian Stafford (four for touchdowns) and Donavon Rasberry (three TDs) had six catches each.

“My (offensive) line did everything they were suppose to, they kept the heat off of me,” Bernard told the Journal. “My receivers did what I asked them to do, they ran the right routes, they were blocking down field for each other. When a unit comes together like that you can’t be stopped. It’s just a blessing.”

CIF rushing leader Dominique Carson had 82 yards on nine carries in the first half and did not play in the second half.

The Liberty led 14-0 less than 2 minutes into the game. Carson ran 25 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the game and after a Gary Wyatt interception on Bismarck’s first offensive play, Bernard hit Stafford with a 16-yard scoring pass at the 13:05 mark.

Salina led 21-12 after the first quarter and 40-19 at halftime as Bernard threw for four touchdowns and ran for one.

Bismarck quarterback Aaron Aiken suffered an injury to his right hand in the first half and was replaced in the second half by receiver Elby Pope, who ran 17 and 39 yards for touchdowns on his first two plays and had 115 yards rushing and three touchdowns the second half. The Bucks’ Tyler Hanks and Tray Boone returned two kickoffs 50 yards for touchdown.

Aiken was just 3-for-9 for 40 yards, two scores and two interceptions. Pope was 2-for-10 for 26 yards. The struggles at quarterback limited the effectiveness of Jauhem Byrd, one of the CIF’s top receivers. He had only two catches for 20 yards and a score.

The Bucks finished the season with six losses in their last seven games. The only game they won in that stretch was the game that earned them a berth in the playoffs.

The team reached a high-water mark of 4-2 right after head coach Richard Davis was relieved of his duties and replaced by offensive coordinator Paco Martinez.

In that six-game stretch, the Bucks gave up a high of 42 points. They allowed at least 59 and as many as 81 five times down the stretch.

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