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August 22, 2014

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Liberty crushes Las Vegas to take Sunrise championship

Patriots used physicality, big hits to rattle Wildcats

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Liberty defensive back Teu Tai celebrates stopping Las Vegas during their game Friday, November 19, 2010. Liberty won 35-14.

Liberty vs. Las Vegas

Liberty quarterback Kai Nacua (L) and running back Teu Tai celebrate during the closing minutes of their game against Las Vegas Friday, November 19, 21010. Liberty won 35-14. Launch slideshow »

Liberty vs. Las Vegas

The Liberty High football team scored the game's first 35 points in beating Las Vegas High for the Sunrise Regional title. The Patriots advance to the state semifinals.

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Anticipation mounting for the Sunrise championship game

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Las Vegas Sun reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer disagree on what will happen in the Sunrise Region championship game between Liberty and Las Vegas. They also break down the rest of the week's games.

Team pages

Each member of the Liberty defensive front seven thinks of himself as a brick.

Put together, they say, they create an impenetrable brick wall. Las Vegas High found that out the hard way Friday night in the Sunrise Region finals.

Liberty, Southeast Division champions, used a dominating defensive performance to knock Las Vegas, Northeast Division champions, out of the playoffs by a jaw-dropping 35-14 margin.

“The thing that hit us the most was when our coaches said speed can’t do anything against a brick wall,” junior defensive lineman Jordan Kapeli said. “That’s what we are.”

Advancing to the state semifinals, where Liberty will meet McQueen in Reno next week, isn’t supposed to be this easy.

The Patriots jumped out to a 35-0 lead after their first possession of the second half and stymied an explosive Wildcats offense. Through two-and-a-half quarters of play, Las Vegas had recorded only two out of 20 plays for positive yards with one first down.

Liberty had at least five sacks — with Sam Tai, Teu Tai and Spencer Hill-Hale involved in most of them — and two interceptions.

“This was the most focused the kids have been all season,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “They came out and did exactly what we asked of them — swarmed to the ball, did their assignments, stayed in their lanes and wrapped up and made some hard hits.”

The Liberty offense did its part, too. The Wildcats hadn’t given up 35 points to a Nevada team since 2008.

The Patriots scored on every one of their drives in the second quarter to take a 28-0 lead into the locker room.

The longest play came when Jordan Kapeli, a fullback on offense, broke through a congested left side of the line for a 42-yard touchdown.

“It was wedge play,” Muraco said. “Everyone steps down and like a bulldozer, they just plow ahead. The backs fake to the outside to pull people away. Jordan just ran it perfect. He stayed right behind the lineman, the big 300 pounders, and saw the seam.”

Kapeli scored a second touchdown with 20 seconds left in the first half to seal Player of the Game honors. He was Liberty’s leading rusher with nine carries for 79 yards.

His brother, sophomore Niko Kapeli, had 14 rushes for 70 yards. Ty Byrd, Kai Nacua and Anthony Morgan also had rushing touchdowns.

Combined, Liberty rushed for 251 yards.

“They were no less than what we expected,” Las Vegas coach Chris Faircloth said. “They are a big, physical team and those are the teams that keep playing.”

Las Vegas scored both of its touchdowns with less than five minutes remaining. Lamond Powe capped a long drive by scoring on a five-yard rush.

The Wildcats recovered an onside kick after the score and quarterback Hasaan Henderson hit Cameron Rogers for a 48-yard touchdown pass on the next play.

It was a picturesque play, but way too late.

“We couldn’t overcome what we put ourselves in,” Faircloth said. “It was a bad situation.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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  1. Great win for Liberty. Coach Faircloth showed very little class in "accepting" defeat. I can excuse the onside kick after their first touchdown. There were four minutes left and if they recover and throw a bomb, which they did, they could score some quick points. Of course, they would have had to do it 4 times to tie. But once Liberty recovered the second onside kick and was obviously pushing the ball up the middle on the ground simply to run out the clock, Faircloth began burning his timeouts with only 90 seconds left. I know we want to preach the "never say die" attitude, but give me a break. Then he has a qb spike the ball on the 3 yard line with 10 seconds to play so Vegas could score a meaningless TD to end the game. What was the result? Vegas star QB unable to walk off the field under his own power because he suffered what looked like a serious leg injury during a play that should not have been run.

  2. People who praise this sort of asinine behavior at the end of a blowout are the same people who would condemn Gorman for throwing long passes in the 4Th quarter last night when they were up by 30 or 40. Its essentially the same type of behavior; being unnecessarily aggressive when a came is clearly out of reach. I'm sure the coaches of Vegas and Gorman would both say the same thing: that they were just playing the game out. Have young players that need to get better? Great... put them in. My biggest concern is for the QB for Vegas. He should not have been in the game at that point and suffered a serious injury during a meaningless attempt to score a meaningless touchdown. For his sake, I hope the injury wasn't as bad as it looked.

  3. LOL @ au-we. Yeah Brewer, your song just fell off the charts. Congratulations to a well played game Patriots! Las Vegas High School is the real deal. Liberty, you all played your hearts out against a legendary team/program and we are proud of you. Let's continue by doing the same against McQueen and representing Southern Nevada. God is Good!

  4. Hey Liberty Nation: Keep singing the Patriots' version of that song all the way up north. Have fun. ...