Russell Farris leads Livonia past Live Oak

The hard, physical running of Russell Farris and a big-play passing game made Livonia too much to handle against a Live Oak team that entered opening night shorthanded.

Farris churned out 144 yards on 15 carries in Friday night’s 38-28 win despite missing much of the second half with leg cramps.

Quarterback Kerry Savoy completed only four passes in the first half, but three of them went for touchdowns as Livonia opened a big early lead. Savoy finished 8-of-15 for 179 yards and four scoring strikes.

In the first regular-season game played on Live Oak’s new field, Livonia — a Class 3A semifinalist last year — beat a LOHS team coming off its first 5A playoff appearance.

“We needed this kind of game to see how our kids would respond to it,” Livonia coach David Brewerton said. “We needed to respond the way we did.”

Live Oak played without senior quarterback Michael Claverie and several other key players dealing with injuries or illness. Coach Tut Musemeche said Claverie was held out because of a stomach virus that required hospital visits during the week. He said the quarterback’s return next week is questionable.

“It wasn’t who was playing, it was how we were playing,” Musemeche said. “I need to do a better job during the course of the week. We did some things uncharacteristic of our team, and that’s a reflection of how they’re coached.”

Junior Brady Morris got the start in place of Claverie and finished 5-of-8 for 35 yards and a touchdown.

The star for Live Oak was senior fullback Chris Kelly, who shares with Farris a physical running style and like Farris wears No. 5.

Kelly nearly matched his counterpart in production as well, rushing for 139 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries.

Livonia took control in the second quarter, scoring on TD passes by Savoy that covered 55, 45 and 8 yards and holding Live Oak to four straight three-and-outs.

But the 25-0 halftime lead wasn’t as safe as it appeared.

Going to a power running game featuring three-back sets, Live Oak marched 80 yards in 10 plays to start the second half, getting on the scoreboard when Wesley Fuller scored from 10 yards. Then, on the ensuing Livonia possession, the Eagles recovered a fumble that set Kelly up for a 1-yard plunge.

“I felt that our kids took it down a notch after we pleaded with them at halftime not to do that,” Brewerton said. “I know what kind of football coach (Musemeche) is. I know what kind of kids he’s coaching. Exactly what I told them could possibly happen, happened.”

Live Oak still trailed 25-14 when the offense took over at its 22 with 1:07 left in the third quarter. But a halfback pass on the first play of the possession resulted in a Dominique Jackson interception. One play later, Savoy hooked up with Darius Hammond on his third TD pass of 20-plus yards.

Live Oak tried to get back in the game one last time, but Livonia had built the lead to 38-14 before the Eagles scored two late touchdowns.