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January 27, 2015

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high school football:

Liberty rallies after early deficit to defeat Foothill, 37-35

Liberty to face Gorman next weekend in state semifinals

Prep Sports Now

The week everyone has been waiting for

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Las Vegas Sun reporters Case Keefer and Ray Brewer get their wish — Palo Verde and Bishop Gorman meeting on the local high school football gridiron. The boys will take a look at the this game, and also discuss the Sunrise Regional finals between Liberty and Foothill.

High school football: Foothill v. Liberty

KSNV coverage of high school football teams from Liberty and Foothill, Nov. 18, 2011.

Team pages

The Liberty High football team rallied back from a 13-point first-quarter deficit to defeat Foothill, 37-35, Friday in the Sunrise Regional final to advance to the state semifinals for a second consecutive year.

“It’s a great feeling to know how hard these kids have worked and the last two years it has paid off with regional championships,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said.

The Patriots made two miscues in the first quarter, which led to consecutive Foothill touchdowns to take an early 13-0 lead.

On Liberty’s opening possession of the game, the Patriots lost a fumble as junior running back Niko Kapeli was unable to secure the ball on a toss play.

On Foothill’s ensuing possession, wide receiver Kyle Keplinger scored on a 1-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-goal to give the Falcons a 7-0 lead.

It appeared as if Keplinger was going to be tackled for a large loss on the end-around play but the senior busted through multiple Liberty tackle attempts to find the end zone.

Foothill took advantage of a Liberty roughing-the-passer penalty on third down on its next possession to set up Keplinger’s second rushing touchdown of the opening quarter.

After spotting Foothill an early 13-point advantage, Liberty quickly responded with a two-play, 75-yard drive capped off by a 69-yard touchdown run from senior fullback Jordan Kapeli.

Liberty took the lead for good on its next possession when junior quarterback Kai Nacua busted free for a 65-yard touchdown run on an option quarterback keeper to give the Patriots a 14-13 lead.

Liberty took advantage of a Foothill turnover midway through the second quarter to cap off 21 unanswered points for the Patriots.

On the first play following a Foothill lost fumble, Liberty drew up a play-action fake and Nacua hit senior tight end Dakota Mayer on a post route for a 35-yard score.

Foothill responded with a touchdown on its ensuing drive to trim the deficit to 21-19 on a 48-yard touchdown pass from Drew Doxtator to Tyler Morris with 1:40 left in the half.

Nacua picked up a 20-yard rush and a 35-yard completion on Liberty’s final possession of the half to set up an Austin Fitzgerald 27-yard field goal with three seconds left to give the Patriots a 24-19 halftime lead.

Liberty took its largest lead of the game on an 18-yard touchdown run by Niko Kapeli in the third quarter to hand the Patriots a 30-19 advantage.

The Patriots’ defense came up big in the third quarter as they held Foothill’s high-octane offense to one first down on four possessions.

The Falcons kept it close in the fourth quarter as Doxtator hit Morris for a 22-yard touchdown with 8:34 remaining to trim the deficit to 30-27.

Morris leaped over two Liberty defenders in the back of the end zone to haul in his second touchdown of the evening.

The Patriots immediately responded as Nacua broke free for a 76-yard run on an option quarterback keeper on the first play of their ensuing possession.

“It was an option so I knew they were going to try to go after Jordan because we had been giving him the ball a lot,” Nacua said. “When I saw the opportunity to pull it, the offensive line made a giant hole and I just ran through it.”

Niko Kapeli scored two plays later to give the Patriots the game-winning score.

Doxtator connected with Keplinger for his third touchdown of the game on Foothill’s final possession of the night, but Liberty recovered the onside kick attempt and ran out the clock to capture the Sunrise Regional championship.

The Patriots will face two-time defending state champion Bishop Gorman High next Saturday at 1 p.m. at Rancho High School in the state semifinals.

The Gaels advanced to the state semifinals with a 35-7 victory over Palo Verde Friday at Fertitta Field.

“We’ve been waiting to play them. Last year we were hoping to play them and now we have the opportunity,” Nacua said.

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  1. Great game Patriots! Much props to Foothill. Either way you slice it, both teams played real, exciting, nail-biter football. Forever proud of my #4 and his teammates. Go Patriots!!!

  2. Great game! Nacua was unbelievable as was Kapelli. Jordan Kapelli. If you told me that Niko would have less than 100 yds I would of said Liberty lost. Nacua and Jordan over 300 yds rushing. WOW! Niko has been awesome all year. What's scary now is he has major help. It's like a 3 headed monster now. Who do you key on? I feel sorry for high school kids who have to step in front of Jordan. He, in my opinion may be the most underrated kid In the state. Liberty, you have a lot to be proud of. You do need to tighten up on defense if you expect to beat BG. They'll be favored. But the game is not settled on reputations and rankings. The game is settled by the kids on the field. Iowa st beat Ok. St tonight you can beat BG. You just have to believe. Prepare hard, Play hard, and leave it all on the field. Good Luck.

    That being said, let's talk about Foothill. Also WOW! You play your hearts out. But as Vince Lombardi said, " you didn't lose you just ran out of time" . You and Liberty both played your butts off, and made the entire community proud of both of you. You had a fantastic season and have so much to be proud of. Coach Redmond, awesome job of coaching this year. Nobody expected your team to be this good this year after all the talented players you lost from last year. Outstanding job by you and your staff. Mr. Keplinger , thank you for an incredibly exciting season. 70 catches over 1000 yds. Rec and 25 or so Tds. Also, to the Foothill faithful, Kudos to you for such great support you showed for these kids. And what a band!

    It was a great night for the Sunrise League. I think you made everyone proud. Now, let everyone come together and help pull Liberty through next week against a very good BG team.

    Liberty, go into this week knowing most of the entire valley is pulling for you. Good luck again and make it happen.

  3. Way to go Patriots! I could feel it in the air last night. Even when Foothill had the lead I was absolutely confident. Looks like Liberty took a page out of Foothill's book. Last week Foothill took the focus off of Keplinger and worked with the other skilled players. This week, Liberty took the focus off of Niko Kapeli and worked with Jordan Kapeli and Kai Nacua for the ground game!
    Defensively, it was rough because the Falcons are good team! But, defense came through when they needed to. It may have been a close score, but they kept Foothill from scoring more than us and that's what matters in the end.
    I was surprised at some of the dirty playing from some of the Foothill players. Tearing our center's helmet off and then another putting a cleat to his face didnt need to happen..especially since the ball was 20 yards upfield already. Just so out of character for Foothill. Other than was still an awesome game! Kyle Keplinger is the real deal. We need him playing on Saturdays at UNLV in the very near future. Unfortunately, it may be for some other school because Hauck and crew dont seem to ACTIVELY recruit in the valley let alone the state. Best of luck to Keplinger and his collegiate aspirations.
    Lastly, I thought it was pretty wild when I saw that Liberty had real island drumming during the game. The halftime show they had in the last game only played a recording of drums but this time I heard Coach Muraco arranged to get the real thing! I can't say enough about how the islanders have embraced this school and vice versa. Between the drumming and the war chant, I knew the boys were ready to rock and not just put a good fight. They were going to fight and winning was the ONLY option. Hope the coach can bring the drummers for the game against Gorman!! Go Liberty!!