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December 19, 2014

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high school football:

Liberty pressures way to fourth straight Southeast league championship

Defensive ends Jarvis Polu, Larry Fuller torture Foothill

Image

Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Liberty High football players (from left) Samson Monterde, Jozef Misaalefua and Tyler Newman before the 2013 season.

Foothill quarterback Drew Doxtator may want to consider filing for a restraining order against the Liberty defensive line.

After two-and-a-half hours of terror Friday night, he could present quite the case. The Patriots assaulted the leader of the Falcons’ offense en route to an authoritative 34-12 victory to close the regular season.

“Our defensive line, in my opinion, should be one of the best defensive lines in the state,” senior defensive end Jarvis Polu humbly concluded.

That’s underselling it, like trying to plead a felony down to a petty offense. And no one’s going to testify that Liberty’s front was anything but fatally destructive against Foothill.

The defensive line is representative of Liberty’s program as a whole in that manner. Gone are the days from a few years ago when the program was the plucky upstart looking to rise up the ranks of the Henderson-based Southeast division. The Patriots are now the strong-armed tyrants of the area, winning their fourth straight division title and 26th consecutive league game dating back to 2009.

“It feels great,” Polu said. “It gives respect to the players before us, shows we didn’t stop playing hard. That’s what it’s all about.”

Polu, an Army commit, had three sacks and quarterback hurries on seemingly every other play Friday night. Larry Fuller, Noah Jefferson, John Groom and Josh Bernard-Lee were the other members of Liberty’s figurative army up front that never allowed Foothill back in the game after it briefly led 6-0 in the first quarter.

“The defensive line is the strength of our team,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “We’ve got eight quality guys we can rotate in and out there. It’s a legit line that gives people problems.”

The Falcons somehow negotiated it in the early going, with Doxtator finding Aedan Bartolowitz for a 12-yard touchdown six minutes into the game. The Patriots answered a couple minutes later when quarterback Tyler Newman broke loose for a 70-yard touchdown run. Austin Fitzgerald — who later booted through field goals of 25 and 28 yards later in the half — added the extra point to make the score 7-6, which for a while looked like all the separation the Patriots needed considering their defensive performance.

Aided by a slew of penalties, Foothill found itself with a fourth-and-1 from the six-yard line on its ensuing possession. Doxtator dropped back to pass but was predictably greeted by a host of Patriots that forced him to rush the throw. Incomplete.

“Mindset is just don’t let them get a first down,” Polu said. “No matter how far away they are.”

Foothill’s next three drives before halftime ended with two interceptions and one three-and-out. Liberty took a 20-6 lead into the locker room.

The game wasn’t close again until Foothill wisely used Liberty’s aggressiveness against it. With two minutes to play in the third quarter, the Falcons ran a draw that opened up beautifully for Justice Jackson — who finished with 10 carries for 43 yards — to score a 23-yard touchdown.

Too bad for the Falcons that the Patriots scored on the very next play from scrimmage, as Newman connected with sophomore Bryan Roland on a 40-yard pass for a touchdown.

“My quarterback told me, ‘we need this. I’m going to pass you the ball. Make a play,’” Roland reflected.

Liberty has no shortage of options when it comes to making a play. The Patriots’ four touchdowns came from four different sources.

Brenan Adams, who had the most carries on the team with seven, scored the second touchdown. Alofania Tevasu had the final one in the fourth quarter.

The sophomore fullback had two carries for 53 yards on the game. Another player who made the most of two carries was Ethan Tuilagi, who gained 64 rushing yards.

Chris Reed, Deseon McQuaig and Drew Hladek tied for the team-lead with three receptions apiece.

“That’s our motto,” Muraco said. “We have so many good players, so many weapons that we want to get everyone involved. When everyone feels like they’re part of the win and contributing, it helps morale and gets everyone to work harder.”

For Foothill, Doxtator finished with 301 yards on 37-for-66 passing. He should find it liberating in next week’s first round of the Sunrise region playoffs at Green Valley to have more time to deal with it and less punishment to endure.

Meanwhile, Polu and Liberty have also zeroed in on their next target.

“That was one of our best defensive performances,” Polu said. “But we’re looking forward to next week against Silverado to do more of what we did today.”

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

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