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September 2, 2014

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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL:

Taking a look at some marquee games on this year’s high school football schedule

Powers Liberty, Palo Verde will hook up in one of the most anticipated nonleague games of the season

Image

Sam Morris

Liberty running back Niko Kapeli leaps over Basic safety Willie Evans (9) while being grabbed by defensive end Garrett Spitzmesser during their game Thursday, October 6, 2011 at Basic. Liberty won 56-21.

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When the Liberty High football team hung tough with power Bishop Gorman for nearly three quarters in last year’s state semifinals, the Patriots immediately confirmed their status as one of the state’s top programs.

They have won back-to-back Sunrise Regional titles and are riding a 16-game winning streak in league games — accomplishments that are nice, but not as significant as giving nationally ranked and three-time defending state champion Gorman a stiff test. Liberty twice had a touchdown lead in the first half and trailed by one point midway through the third quarter before Gorman scored 28 unanswered points to secure the win, 56-34.

Come next fall, staying at the top will be easier said than done for Liberty. Take one look at the schedule, which was finalized in late April, and you can easily argue Liberty will have its hands full.

The Patriots open Aug. 31 against Crespi High of Encino, Calif., in a rare game for a Las Vegas-area public school against a respected California program. Two weeks later, on Sept. 13, Liberty will host Palo Verde in easily the most significant nonleague game featuring local teams on the schedule. Palo Verde has just four defeats in the past three years — three to Gorman — and is 59-6 since 2007.

“We are to the point where we don’t have to prove ourselves anymore,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “We proved ourselves by putting up more points on Gorman than any local team. I’m glad we are to the point where we get tough games. Obviously, that will keep our program in the spotlight. We are excited to take on Palo. They are a perennial power.”

With the spring sports season finishing last weekend, the attention has shifted to the football season. Several schools are running their spring football practices each afternoon. At Liberty, which returns 2,300-yard rusher Niko Kapeli and quarterback Kai Nacua, the general consensus is another deep playoff run is more than obtainable.

The tough schedule will have them more than ready come the end of the season in November. Last year, Liberty dropped its opener to Arbor View — a top-5 local team — but went undefeated before falling to Gorman in the semifinals.

“The better teams you play, especially early in the year, the better prepared you’ll be at the end of year,” Muraco said.

Other highlights of Liberty’s schedule include: Sept. 28 against Canyon Springs (last year’s Northeast champs) and Nov. 2 against Foothill in a rematch of last year’s Sunrise title game.

One game missing from the schedule is a contest against nearby rival Silverado, which had become one of the area's most heated rivalry games. The schools were put in different divisions in the realignment.

Rivalry games still on the slate:

Coaches at Chaparral High worried the annual Cleat Game against Eldorado wouldn’t be scheduled in the fall with the Cowboys moving to the newly formed Division II and Eldorado staying in the top division. However, Clark County School District officials continued all significant rivalry games as promised in realignment, scheduling Eldorado at Chaparral on Sept. 14. The rivalry dates back to the 1970s and used to be one of the marquee games of the season.

In other rivalry games, the Victory Bell game between host Silverado and Foothill is Sept. 14, the Henderson Bowl between host Basic and Green Valley is Sept. 28, the Bone Game between host Las Vegas High and Rancho is Oct. 5, and the Battle for Boulder Highway between host Foothill and Basic is Oct. 11. Basic, however, won't continue the "Jug Game" rivalry with Boulder City in a realignment casualty.

Basic and Green Valley, which had competed in the same league since Green Valley opened in 1991, are now in different leagues — Green Valley in the Northeast League of Division I and Basic in the Southeast — and weren’t guaranteed to play. It’s the same drill with Foothill, which stayed in the Southeast, and new Northeast member Silverado.

Realignment also forced Desert Oasis and neighboring Sierra Vista to different leagues in Division I. The Railroad Rivalry game between the schools, however, will continue Sept. 14 at Sierra Vista. The same holds true for Centennial and Shadow Ridge, which changed leagues in the top division and will play Sept. 14 at Shadow Ridge.

Also, Cheyenne of Division II will continue playing Cimarron-Memorial of the top division in the Duel in the Desert game, which is the season opener for both on Aug. 31. Both schools, which have been heated rivals since the 1990s, requested the rivalry stay on the schedule.

These games stand out:

• Palo Verde’s schedule is also full of difficult games. In addition to the contest against Liberty, the Panthers will be challenged Aug. 31 at rival Centennial. They needed a late-scoring drive to beat Centennial, 20-16, in last year’s Sunset Regional semifinals. The former league rivals kept each other on the schedule after being split by realignment.

• Palo Verde and Arbor View both stayed in the Northwest League and will continue their rivalry Oct. 25 in the regular season finale — it will likely be for the Northwest title. Also, on Sept. 21, Palo Verde hosts Canyon Springs, which is one of the Sunrise’s top teams. The Panthers’ season starts Aug. 18 at the Sollenberger Classic against Desert Vista High, Arizona’s defending large-school champion and a nationally ranked team.

• Cheyenne and Desert Pines open the season Aug. 23 on "Thursday Night Lights" (yes, they are back for a third season) in a battle of what will likely be the top teams in the new Division II.

Legacy will be the first local team to get a crack at Bishop Gorman, opening play in the new Southwest League Sept. 28 against the three-time defending state champs. Centennial and Cimarron-Memorial are also part of the new Southwest, joining Bonanza and Desert Oasis at trying to top Gorman.

Durango, with college-caliber running backs Marcus Williams and Arie McQuaig leading way, will be tested in non-league games Sept. 7 at home against Centennial and Sept. 14 at Basic.

• On Sept. 7, Desert Oasis hosts perennial Northeast power Las Vegas High and plays Sept. 21 at Foothill — a nice non-league slate for one of the valley’s up-and-coming teams.

• Gorman plays four out-of-state opponents, including a trip over Labor Day weekend to Hawaii for a game against Honolulu power St. Louis High. Here is more on Gorman’s schedule.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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  1. Getting excited now that we know the regular season schedule. I still think they should have realigned football separately from other sports, its by far the one where disparity will likely equal injury. I think teams like Basic and Cheyenne definitely belong in 4A and a team like Eldorado definitely needs to be in 4A*lite. Either way it was done with good intentions and nothing is perfect.

    Can't wait for Liberty vs Palo and Liberty vs Crespi. I hope they representing Nevada well. I still hate that we very rarely get regular season match ups between north and south teams, I think a game or two would build excitement for state and that way there's some common opponents to compare.

    They should have called the divisions something new, GV being northwest just sounds.as dumb as Gorman in SW when we were on Maryland or silverado being NE. Just call them 1-4 instead.

    Anyway time for football talk

  2. Hey Tuasdad: I agree about realignment. It should have been different for football. And, the leagues are very confusing. Legacy in the Southwest??

  3. When did the realignment happen? Where can I find out who is in what league or division?

  4. Here is my story on realignment: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2011/jun...

  5. Thanks Ray! I read and remembered that story. I did not know it had been voted on and accepted. This is the best thing for Nevada Athletics overall long-term. The 3A division was a sham. Desert Pines meeting Cheyenne every year in FB is the same as LVHS or Palo or Gorman meeting in the one of the semifinals or finals each year. Minimal down-side unlimited upside.

  6. We are looking forward to the game. We had a somewhat disappointing year last year and are hoping for a resurgence this year. Looks like we will have our hands full with Liberty. See you on the 31st. Crespi fan.

  7. http://www.niaa.com/members/Landing

    If you're as confused as I was trying to piece together the divisions from the articles...the link above will help. Go there and click on "alignment by classification 2012-16"

    My only observation is that Gorman being in the Sunset SW is a joke. They should swap places with Eldorado in the Sunrise SE...that would assure way more league comp for them in most sports across the board.

  8. Ray,

    DP and Cheyenne meeting every year in Div 2?

    Hmm, I'm thinking Moapa might have something to say about that? Don't forget Moapa beat Del Sol and Silverado last season and Legacy barley squeaked out a win, with just minutes left.

    Palo vs Liberty, that's a GREAT pick for a Thursday night game!

    It should be a fun season... cant wait!

  9. S4... I think we all know and respect what Moapa brings to the football table. I certainly expect Moapa to dominate some programs and reach the playoffs and getting to semis or final would not surprise me.

    Djonian, thanks for the link, but you had to notice more than just that Eldog in the top tier while Cheyenne, DP and Basic get dropped? I really hope they tweek this next year so football is separate.

  10. I misread Basic stayed in top tier

  11. The former 3A is now called Division I-A. There is no Div. II.
    Can hardly wait for the season to get underway.
    Will the Cheyenne/Desert Pines game be broadcast in any form on the internet?
    Would love to get a "look see", or at least be able to listen to the game.