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April 19, 2014

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high school football:

Liberty drops heartbreaker in final game against national competition

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

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

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Liberty was in position to knock off one of the West’s most dominant high school football programs Friday night.

The Patriots took Hamilton High (Arizona) to the brink, leading the entire game until three minutes remained. That’s when Hamilton finally found the end zone on a 12-yard touchdown pass.

Hamilton 14, Liberty 10.

“It was our game to win,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said dejectedly. “We missed a couple field goals, threw an interception in the end zone, fumbled going in and we still had the lead with three minutes to go. The kids played awesome. They believed we were going to win the game.”

Liberty concluded the national portion of its schedule with a 1-3 record. Its only victory came in the sole local contest, against Silverado.

But Muraco came away impressed with how his team improved in every game. After getting blown out 48-7 by Arizona’s Salpointe Catholic, the Patriots managed to score 42 points against California’s Centennial albeit in a 28-point loss.

Then there was Friday, when everything seemed to come together.

The defense was staunch. And the offense was clicking. Quarterback Tyler Newman took Liberty down the field early and punched in a touchdown run.

On another drive before halftime receiver Drew Hladek caught a couple passes, a recurring theme on this evening, to set up a 42-yard field goal from Austin Fitzgerald.

It made the score 10-0, but was also the final time Liberty would score. The rest of Liberty’s schedule, starting with next week’s game at Durango, is confined to Las Vegas.

“I didn’t take these games thinking we’d go 4-0,” Muraco said. “I knew there was a good chance we’d be 1-3, but I wanted to come out of it battle-tested. Now we want to carry it over to beat the elite teams in Nevada.”

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

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