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January 30, 2015

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Liberty misses two-point conversion, falls to McQueen in Reno

McQueen will face Bishop Gorman at Sam Boyd Stadium for the state championship next week


Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Liberty running back Niko Kapeli looks for a hole in the Las Vegas defense during their game Friday, November 19, 2010. Liberty won 35-14.

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Breaking down the state semifinals

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Las Vegas Sun reporters Case Keefer and Ray Brewer break down this week's high school football state semifinals. Can Liberty handle traveling to Northern Nevada to face McQueen — and the Reno area's cold weather? Plus, everything you need to know about the much anticipated showdown between Bishop Gorman and Palo Verde.

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The best season in Liberty’s school history came down to a play the Patriots won't soon forget.

Sophomore running back Niko Kapeli took in a three-yard touchdown with five minutes remaining in the game to make the score 7-6 in the state semifinals against McQueen in Reno. Instead of attempting an extra point, Liberty decided to go for the two-point conversion.

The McQueen defense shut down a handoff to Kapeli and didn’t let Liberty near the end zone the rest of the game.

“It was like a blizzard and I was worried about the snap and the hold,” Liberty coach Muraco said. “Obviously, it backfired. But we had just marched down the field and I felt like we were wearing them down. We also had plenty of time left in case we didn’t get in.”

Liberty got the ball back twice, once at about midfield with four minutes remaining, but couldn’t put together a drive in the adverse conditions.

“I don’t want to use the weather as an excuse because they had to play in it, too,” Muraco said. “But it really affected our passing game and my confidence in our special teams.”

At the beginning of the day, it was only cold and windy in Reno with no snow. But as the game went on the snow started to come down heavier.

McQueen got off to a fast start by catching Liberty off guard with a trick play. Lancers running back Nick Shepard caught a toss, but instead of running he launched it 70 yards for a touchdown to Rollins Stallworth.

That was the sole blip on an otherwise dominating day by the Patriots' defense.

“Defensively, we played amazing,” Muraco said. “But we just didn’t execute when we needed to execute to win the game. We had the typical mistakes we had all year and when you play against a better team later in the year, those things matter. They are hard to overcome.”

Liberty got within the 10-yard line earlier in the game, but was pushed out of the red zone because of a 15-yard facemask penalty.

The Patriots later missed a field goal after fumbling the hold. The miscues put to waste a solid day from Kapeli, who rushed for 120 yards.

Sam Tai, Kimo Seau and Anthony Morgan keyed in a defensive effort that held McQueen to less than five plays of more than 10 yards.

The defeat means the state championship trophy will stay out of Henderson for the 50th straight year. A Henderson team hasn’t won the title since Basic in 1960.

“It hurts, obviously,” Muraco said. “But looking back to where we came from a few years ago, where we were getting blown out every game to making the playoffs last year to winning the division and the Sunrise this year, these kids accomplished a lot.”

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

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  1. The team up north, whoever it is, will always have an advantage when the Vegas team has to take an 8-hour bus ride just to get to the game. As a Liberty fan, I am proud of the way the boys played and it was a shame to see it taken away from them on what amounts to a bad call by the coach. EVen if they made the 2-point conversion and won, I'd say the same thing. When the stakes are this high, you go for the kick. Liberty has a great kicker and the defense shut McQueen down the entire game with their lone touchdown coming on a busted coverage long TD pass at the beginning of the game. McQueen still played their butts of and deserved to win the game. Of course, now they have to take the 8-hour bus ride and go against an awesome Gorman team... at least they get a trip to Vegas, right?

  2. I was there freezing my butt off with all the layers of protective and warm covering you can have. The boys had much less and played with all the heart and physicality you can imagine. First, I will comment that the parents that represented McQueen's side was THE MOST GHETTO I have experienced in all my years. During our warm ups, they were yelling and calling our boys "Fat & Slow" and taunting and cursing at them. How shameful for a program of that caliber to have parents who are no better than street smut. Our kids deserved and earned their way to the semifinals - all the while dealing with the crap that some fans from So. Nevada was dishing them. I am so very proud of all they accomplished and how they played. The calls made were as a result of the conditions presented to us at the time. Believe me, I would have loved for Marcos Rivera to kick that extra point, but when you have SLEET coming down at you and nothing for him to plant his foot securely, you go for the run that has a better chance. Unfortunately, it didn't go the way we wanted. There would be speculation had we gone for the kick and it didn't go through, either. It's a tough loss believe me. We parents had to be there to help our boys through this. They played physical football despite the elements and made it easier for Gorman to win this Saturday because their 3 best players are out! And it all happened in the 4th quarter, so their best players were in the until then @OpenRange. So your interpretation is wrong. Thank you MikeLange for giving the boys credit for their hard work and achievements. Most people were just waiting for something like this loss to discount what a great team this is and not give credit to the boys. Eternally proud of the Liberty Patriots!