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October 20, 2014

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Del Sol knocks out Liberty in Sunrise Regional semifinals

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Stephen Sylvanie / Special to the Sun

Del Sol junior Byron Stewart (32) celebrates with his Dragon teammates after defeating the Liberty Patriots in a Sunrise Regional semifinal on Friday night for a chance to play for a spot in the state championship for the first time in school history.

Libery vs. Del Sol

Sam Tai (right) of Liberty High has 10 scholarship offers, including one from Arkansas. He played quarterback last year for the Patriots, but is being recruited as a defensive lineman. Launch slideshow »

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The Del Sol Dragons were angry.

After what players called the toughest week of practice all year, the Dragons took the field Friday night and saw their opponents, the Liberty Patriots, dancing, hooting and hollering at them near midfield.

It was the same team that defeated them a month ago, the only blemish on their schedule, and Liberty was telling Del Sol they were about to beat them again.

That didn’t happen, and after a 42-13 victory in the Sunrise Regional semifinals, the Dragons were the only team dancing.

“This is our house,” senior running back Dezerick Reed said. “We weren’t going to allow that, and it really got us pumped up to come out here and bring them down.”

Reed scored twice in the game on short-yardage touchdowns while rushing for 60 yards on 19 carries, but the game’s fireworks display was put on by Dragons senior wide receiver Evan Weinstock.

Weinstock had his way with the Patriots — running, catching and defending the ball — to make sure his team would have another game to play.

He caught five passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns, including two bombs of 79 and 40 yards, scored on a 26-yard reverse and nearly took an interception to the house late in the game.

“We came out fired up. We knew we could beat them, and we ended up executing on both sides of the ball,” Weinstock said. “Our game plan worked great.”

After a Del Sol fumble on the first play of the game turned into a two-yard touchdown run by Liberty’s Jordan Kapeli, the Dragons surged past the Patriots for good with Weinstock’s three-touchdown performance in the second quarter.

“He does it all,” Del Sol coach Preston Goroff said. “He’s our guy, and we put a lot of emphasis on getting him the ball offensively and sticking him on their best guy defensively.”

Weinstock teamed up with junior quarterback Troy Miller, who finished the game with 256 yards and three touchdowns on 7-of-19 passing.

Midway through the third quarter, Miller hooked up with senior wide receiver Ashton Cacho for a 75-yard strike to put the game out of reach.

“This is a great victory for the Del Sol football program,” Goroff said. “Our kids were focused all week and they came out here and got it done.

“Anytime you have a season with one loss and it’s to a certain team, that’s going to be enough motivation for the kids to come out and beat them the second time.”

Liberty beat Del Sol, 24-21, on Oct. 23.

It was the team’s high point in a regular season that produced the school’s first playoff berth. Liberty went on to beat Canyon Springs last week in the opening round of the playoffs.

“I’m extremely proud of my guys,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “The future for Liberty football looks very bright.”

In the first meeting between the two teams, Del Sol opted for a run-first strategy, something Muraco hoped they would repeat.

“The one thing that really scared me coming in was them throwing the ball,” he said. “They did a great job game-planning and exposing our weakness, which was the pass.”

Del Sol advances to the Sunrise Regional finals next weekend to take on Basic, which defeated Foothill, 42-20, on Friday night. It will be Del Sol’s fourth straight trip to the regional finals — the Dragons have lost to Las Vegas in the finals the last three years.

Del Sol and Basic locked up earlier this season, on Oct. 2, when Del Sol escaped a fourth-quarter Basic comeback and defeated the Wolves, 21-19.

“It’s going to be a dogfight,” Goroff said. “They’re a very good football team, very well coached, and it’s going to be the team that executes and makes the least amount of mistakes that wins.”

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