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September 2, 2014

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Liberty uses strength, run game to shut out Silverado

Jeremy Lagasca records two interceptions and a touchdown reception

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Liberty football players perform a haka after Thursday’s game against Silverado. Liberty shut out Silverado 27-0.

Liberty vs. Silverado

Liberty running back Teu Tai loses the ball as he gets taken down by Silverado defensive back Jerrell Norman during Thursday's game at Silverado. Tai recovered the ball as Liberty shut out Silverado 27-0. Launch slideshow »

Team pages

As many as five teams could have made a case for why they were the best in the Southeast Division earlier this week.

Liberty presented its argument on live television Thursday night at Silverado. It was convincing to say the least.

The Patriots shut out the divisional rival Skyhawks, 27-0, by dominating the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

“They are the first team that we faced this year that had the same type of size we had,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “Our kids took a lot of pride in wanting to prove they are the bigger, stronger line. There was an emphasis all week on it.”

Silverado failed to record a carry for more than 10 yards and never reached the red zone.

Two Liberty running backs individually out-rushed Silverado as a team. Senior Ty Byrd had 17 carries for 127 yards and a touchdown and sophomore Niko Kapeli rushed nine times for 64 yards. The Skyhawks ran the ball 18 times for 51 yards.

“We got what we expected from them,” Silverado coach Andy Ostolaza said. “We knew they were good. We didn’t play well on offense. I thought we were better than that.”

The best demonstration of Liberty’s style of football came near the end of the third quarter when it led only 3-0. The Patriots started a drive at their opponent’s 29-yard line after junior safety Jeremy Lagasca snagged the second of three interceptions from Silverado quarterback Savon Moniz.

Liberty proceeded to score its first touchdown after a five-minute drive that consisted exclusively of rushes behind the massive offensive line anchored by seniors Senituli Fakauho and Daniel Filimona.

The longest play of the scoring drive was a mere four-yard rush from quarterback Kai Nacua for the touchdown.

“We felt like we had to come through,” Lagasca said. “We came through.”

On a night where Liberty’s best player, defensive end and top recruit Sam Tai, missed his third game in a row with a foot injury, Lagasca surfaced as the team’s biggest star.

Lagasca made his second interception on Silverado’s next offensive possession. He followed it up with a 51-yard touchdown reception on a fake punt to give Liberty a 17-0 lead.

“When we watched film, we saw their man on punt lined up in front and I would have nobody on me,” Lagasca said. “So we just decided to get the ball out to me.”

Muraco confirmed the Patriots put the play in this week to take advantage of the Skyhawks punt formation. The fake punt relied on senior punter Marcos Rivera getting the ball to Lagasca, which he succeeded at.

“Our punter is a really smart kid,” Muraco said. “He has like a 4.8 GPA and is very cerebral. He saw it, I gave him the signal and he went for it. That was the dagger.”

Liberty went on to score 10 more points on a 16-yard touchdown from Byrd and a 47-yard field goal from Rivera.

The Patriots have confirmed their place among Southern Nevada’s elite teams.

“We can do this,” Lagasca said. “We can go to state. We have the power to do it.”

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

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