The Stratton/Liberty Knighted Eagles are state champions once again.
The co-op program won its second 6-man football title this decade, the other coming in 2013, blowing past Kit Carson 57-18, last Saturday in the championship game in Stratton. The Knighted Eagles lost to Peetz in last year’s title game.
The championship game was a rematch of the regular season finale at Kit Carson, in which the Wildcats rallied for a 28-22 win over Stratton/Liberty.
However, the Knighted Eagles were not going to be denied this time, racing out to a 23-0 lead in the first quarter and never looking back.

“Our team came out determined to win this game,” coach Toby Kechter said. “When our guys are dialed in like they were Saturday its amazing to watch them. Those at the field on Saturday had the pleasure of watching a very hard hitting, great football game. We are extremely proud of our team and the level of commitment and leadership they showed this year.”
Kit Carson won the toss and elected to receive. Ignacio Biaxias set the stage of the game by sending the opening kickoff through the uprights. The Knighted Eagles quickly forced a three-and-out.
The first play from scrimmage was a perfectly-executed sweep resulting in a 29-yard Ethan Richmond touchdown, his first of three on the day. Tyson Lichty made a great catch on the one-point PAT pass from Zeke Craig for a quick 7-0 lead. Biaxias once again put the kickoff out the back of the end zone, and Kit Carson was forced to punt again. Jaret Lichty got his first of three touchdowns on a 37-yard run. Biaxias’ kick was good for a 15-0 lead.

Jaret Lichty finds room to run against Kit Carson in the 6-man championship game last Saturday in Stratton. (Kenna Dible)

Stratton/Liberty’s defense held strong again and forced another punt. Richmond scored again, going untouched from 47 yards out on a jet sweep. Biaxias’ kick was good and it was 23-0 after the first quarter.
The defense played very well the first quarter with Levi Shean and Trevor Frank recording huge sacks. The first drive by KC in the second quarter began with Levi Shean breaking up a pass on a huge hit on first down. Shean and Richmond together got a sack on second down. The drive ended with the first touchdown for KC after a huge mental mistake by the Knighted Eagles, getting caught out of position on fourth-and-13. Trevor Frank got a big time block on Kit Carson’s first PAT attempt. Stratton/Liberty turned the ball over on downs after a holding penalty their next possession and Kit Carson scored again to cut the lead to 23-12 after a pass interference on third-and-17.
The Knighted Eagles got the ball with just over a minute left in the first half. J. Lichty scored on a 53-yard run up the middle on third and 2. Biaxias’ kick was good for a 31-12 lead.
Kit Carson was

Levi Shean lays out a Kit Carson ballcarrier during last Saturday’s championship game in Stratton. (Kenna Dible)

called for a 15-yard penalty on the PAT. With less than 20 seconds left in the half, the Knighted Eagles decided to onside kick after the ball was teed up from the Kit Carson 35-yard line. Eltan Yarger recovered the onside kick. Then, J. Lichty found Richmond on a perfectly executed 17-yard crack motion sweep pass on the second play from scrimmage for a 37-12 halftime lead.

“At halftime our kids were extremely focused, determined to finish the game strong,” Kechter said.
The Knighted Eagles took the second half kick off and marched down the field with J. Lichty scoring on a 32-yard run, just over a minute into the third quarter for a 43-12 lead.
Kit Carson drove down to the five yard line with a first and goal. The defense stiffened and turned them over on downs, stuffing Kit Carson’s attempts to run it up the middle.
A 15-yard penalty on Kit Carson gave the Knighted Eagles some breathing room. Yarger found paydirt later in the drive on a 40-yard touchdown run, aided by Richmond, for a 49-12 lead. Biaxias kicked off, then ran down and forced a fumble with Yarger falling on it. Stratton/Liberty fumbled on their next play to give it back to Kit Carson. The defense didn’t give up a first down and turned Kit Carson over on downs.
Early in the fourth, Yarger scored the last touchdown of his career on a one-yard run and Biaxias made the PAT for a 57-12 lead and running clock.
Kit Carson scored on their last possession of the game. Braden Wedel blocked the KC PAT attempt and the Knighted Eagles kneeled out the clock for a 57-18 win.
Shean led the strong defense with 10 tackles, five for loss, two sacks and a number of huge hits. J. Lichty nine tackles, Tyson Lichty seven, one for loss; Richmond and Frank five tackles each, Frank two sacks and Richmond one sack. Yarger had three tackles, which is six below his average, but Kit Carson was determined to block him by double teaming him at times. Zeke Craig and Riggin Williams each had two tackles. Biaxias and Owen Clapper each had one tackle with Biaxias also forcing a fumble.
Offensively, the Knighted Eagles 29 plays while still scoring 57 points.
T. Lichty was 2-3 passing for 44 yards, J. Lichty 1-1 for 17 yards and a touchdown, and Zeke Craig 1-1 for three yards. J. Lichty ran nine times for 179 yards and three touchdowns, Yarger nine carries for 95 yards and two touchdowns, and Richmond six carries for 91 yards and two touchdowns. Richmond caught two passes for 24 yards and one touchdown, Shean one catch for 37 yards and T. Lichty one catch for three yards.

“We have five seniors who we will miss dearly, Owen Clapper, Levi Shean, Eltan Yarger, Ethan Richmond and Tyson Lichty,” Kechter said. “This group went 32-4 over their last three seasons after a 4-5 freshman season where three of them were forced to start due to a low number of upperclassmen. We are extremely happy for these five seniors, and there couldn’t be a more deserving group of young men.”
The head coach added: “A special thanks to my assistant coaches, Jesse McConnell and Christian Hornung. I am extremely blessed to have these two guys as they are great coaches. Thanks to our Knighted Eagle Community (parents, grandparents, friends, neighbors, etc) for your support. Also, thanks to our managers: Joe Shean, Logan Breyer, Riley Shean, Peyton Hornung, Bennett Wilson and Marcos. Thanks to the volleyball girls for the goody bags, and to Andrea, Crystal and Matty for the decorations in the locker room. Thanks to all who helped with the field and facilities throughout the year. There were so many of you doing so many things for the team, both visible and behind the scenes, and each of you have helped to make this an unforgettable season for the boys. With gratitude. We thank God for our team and for this memorable day.”

The Stratton/Liberty football team poses with its trophy after rolling past Kit Carson in the 6-man football championship game last Saturday in Stratton. It is the co-op program’s second state title this decade. (Photo by Kenna Dible)