BY BARRY WONG
In last year’s Sunrise Region championship game, Liberty and Green Valley combined for 99 points. This year, they scored 42 total points together, but the showdown was just as entertaining, as Liberty keeps its season alive with a 28-14 win to open the Sunrise Region playoffs.
Liberty senior Spencer Wilson, who filled the role of “running back stepping up” this week, led the way with a 68-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and a 47-yard run that set up another Patriot touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“Us having a deep line of running backs made it really successful for us,” senior defensive lineman Noah Jefferson said.
Jefferson book ended the game with a 38-yard touchdown catch in the first and a 10-yard scoring grab late in the fourth, both from freshman quarterback Kenyon Oblad.
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After the first quarter wrapped up, Liberty looked far from a team on the way to a win. The defense blew a coverage on Green Valley’s first drive, allowing senior quarterback Christian Lopez to connect with junior wide receiver Brayon Williams for a 38-yard touchdown on 3rd and 23. On Liberty’s ensuring possession, the Patriots gave up back-to-back sacks and a bad snap led to a safety on a fourth-down punt attempt. Tack on a Gator field goal, and Green Valley led 11-0.
“We never make it easy on ourselves, it seems like,” Liberty head coach Rich Muraco said.
After another bad snap on a fourth-down attempt in the fourth quarter, Green Valley was poised to take the lead, but the Patriot defense stuffed first and second down runs and sophomore cornerback Ethan Dedeaux deflected a third-down pass attempt. The Gators settled for a game-tying field goal instead.
“That’s humongous,” Muraco said. “Now as playcalling, you can do whatever you want,”
Most of Liberty’s playcalling involved running the ball out of double tight end formations, an adjustment the coaching staff made after the Gators were pressuring Oblad when he was the shotgun-spread in the first quarter.
“(We) got a little rattled early,” Muraco said. “So, we tried something different.”
Liberty will host Coronado, who topped Silverado 20-7, next Friday in a rematch of Week 3 of the season, a 14-13 Liberty win.