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April 19, 2015

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high school football:

Liberty makes quick work of Coronado for Sunrise title, has confidence it can compete next week against Gorman

Blowout victory against Coronado gives Liberty its first appearance in the state title game, where they’ll face three-time defending state champion Gorman


Stephen R. Sylvanie / Special to the Sun

Liberty High’s Kai Nacua celebrates with teammates and cheerleaders following the Patriots’ 59-20 victory against Coronado Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, in the Sunrise Regional title game. Liberty advances to next week’s state title game to face Bishop Gorman.

Sunrise Regional Football Championship 2012

Liberty High School senior Tyler Edwards shouts as he celebrates with teammates after the Patriots blowout victory over Coronado in the Sunrise Regional Championship game today at Freedom Field. Launch slideshow »
Prep Sports Now

Gorman, Liberty and....Coronado? Previewing the semifinals

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Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer expected Bishop Gorman and Liberty to be in this position, one game away from the state championship on Thanksgiving weekend. Coronado comes as the season's surprise. Brewer and Keefer discuss whether the Cougars can take it a step further and everything else concerning the state semifinals.

Kai Nacua easily could have been rattled.

The Liberty High quarterback fumbled on the first play of Saturday’s Sunrise Regional championship game against visiting Coronado, committing a turnover that was scooped up by a Coronado defender and returned for a 13-yard touchdown.

Just eight seconds into the game and the two-time defending region champion Patriots trailed by a touchdown.

But, with Nacua guiding the offense, the deficit lasted just a few minutes.

Nacua backed up claims that he’s one of the state’s best players, accounting for seven touchdowns and single-handedly taking the game over in a 59-20 Liberty win.

It’s the Patriots’ third straight Sunrise championship, and with this year’s Sunrise title game doubling as the state semifinals, Liberty advances to next week’s state championship game to face Bishop Gorman.

In the first quarter alone, Nacua passed, rushed and caught a touchdown. He helped the Patriots score 35 unanswered points in about 18 minutes, punching their ticket to the state finals for the first time in school history. The school opened in 2003 and they’ve lost over Thanksgiving weekend in the state semifinals the past two years.

“We are all like brothers out here and we share the same goal,” Nacua said. “That’s to accomplish what we just did by getting to state.”

Liberty coach Rich Muraco has frequently said Nacua was been the best player on the field every week this season. He also doesn’t hesitate when calling him the best player in the state.

Saturday was a good indication.

The BYU-committed Nacua connected with Tevis Labrador for a 72-yard touchdown to open the Liberty scoring. He added a 19-yard touchdown run at the 6:57 mark of the first and closed the quarter by catching a 21-yard fade from Tyler Newman for a quick 21 points.

“I really believe (he’s the best). I’m not trying to say it to hype him up or anything,” Muraco said. “Every single week, every single game, he is the best player on the field. He wins games for us. He takes over games and is such a match-up problem.

“Having him with Niko (Niko, the school’s all-time leading rusher) presents a lot of match-up problems. Do you key on Niko, or do you key on Kai?,” he continued.

His most impressive play came on Liberty’s fourth touchdown early in the second quarter. He caught a short screen from Newman, then broke numerous tackles in outracing the Coronado defense for a 63-yard score.

On Liberty’s next possession, Nacua connected with tight end Josef Misaalefua for a 8 yard touchdown. Misaalefua also caught a short touchdown pass from Newman — who had three touchdown passes and a touchdown reception — late in the third quarter.

Click to enlarge photo

When Nacua connected with Jay Mitchell for a 15-yard scoring strike for a 49-13 Liberty lead midway through the third quarter, it marked the seventh touchdown he was part of — one rushing, two receiving, and four passing.

Not bad after starting the game with a turnover.

“Stuff happens in football,” Nacua said. “I knew we were going to get the ball right back. We just had to play our game and get those points back.”

Duplicating the effort next week against Bishop Gorman High, which beat Reed 49-24 in the other state semifinal, will be easier said than done.

Gorman is the three-time defending state champions and haven’t lost to a local foe since the 2008 postseason. And, in a true sign of Gorman’s domination, most of the games haven’t been close.

One of the exceptions came in last year’s state semifinals against Liberty. Liberty twice had touchdown leads in the first half, and only trailed by one point midway through the third quarter, before Gorman closed strong in a 56-34 victory.

Hanging tough was a moral victory for the Patriots. This year, they want the real thing.

During the celebration, Muraco gathered the players — and several fans who made their way down to the field — for his postgame speech. His message was simple: If you are afraid of Bishop Gorman, don’t bother showing up next week, he told the group. To beat Gorman, you have to believe you can do just that, he said.

Needless to say, it got the players fired up. More than any other Nevada team that’s faced Gorman, you can easily argue Liberty has the most confidence they can be successful.

“The whole offseason we talked about Bishop Gorman,” Muraco said. “Everything we did was getting to state and beating them. All of the lifts, all of the motivational speeches were (about beating) Gorman. I really think the kids believe we can beat them.”

When Gorman fell behind early against Reed in today’s other state semifinals, not too many players or coaches from Liberty were rejoicing. The general consensus is Gorman is the only team they want to play for the state championship.

“Selfishly speaking, I would be really mad if someone else beat Gorman before we do,” Muraco said. “I want to be the local team that knocks them down. If you go in with the mind set of just trying to survive or not being embarrassed, then you aren’t going to beat them. You have to go in wanting to win.”

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

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  1. This win was for all you Gorman Alumni, that actually thought Coronado had a chance for an upset. Only in your Dreams!! Great job Liberty!! Next stop on the Liberty Pain Train, taking State next week from all the non-believers!!

  2. I really hope Liberty brings it next week. More on-side kicks and trick plays. Its really your only shot. You are still slow and have no depth. Your top 4 players play both ways the whole game. If you don't know who they are, they are the guys sucking water with their hands on their knees in the fourth quarter. Don't get me wrong, you have good athletes on your team but "The System" Gorman has will be your downfall.

    Congrats for all your efforts this year. Your true shot at state begins Sunday when Anu Solomon turns in his pads. You will take state in 2013. Then again I was wrong about Coronado.

  3. Nacua is unquestionably one of the states best players. That goes without saying. While it's debatable as to who THE BEST player in Nevada is; in my opinion, Nacua is absolutely the Most Valuable Player. He takes over games from both sides of the ball. Awesome player and leader. For the title of "Best Player" of those that I've seen this year, I'd nominate (in alphabetical order): Beaulieu, Elijah George, Nacua, and Solomon. For MVP, I'd give an Honorable Mention to Turley, Beaulieu, Solomon, and Pumphrey. (I didn't see Green Valley or enough of Basic to weigh in on their star players.) Kapeli was banged up a bit this year. Otherwise, he'd be in the discussion, too.

  4. First- CoachDD is a bitter Bob, all 12 post are hating on Gorman. We can put you in the SG1 complex category. Contribute more to the conversation that "Gorman this, Fertitta that? It's funny how you didn't make a single POSITIVE comment about your Liberty Patriots until they won the state semi. Every comment you've made up to now was Gorman bashing...which is fine but why haven't you made a comment on the good job your boys have done all season? Doesn't make sense, I can understand you hate Gorman but if you love Liberty why did you wait until the next to last game to finally speak up?

    As for Liberty themselves, kudos. I sure as heck didn't see this one coming. And really you can't tell me the quality of football Liberty played this last Saturday was on par with what they've shown the last few weeks. If they played all season like they did saturday, the games against Basic, Coro and Canyon wouldn't even have been close. Maybe they really were playing possum saving it for Gorman, I can't wait. Congrats to them, we're getting the only match up we wanted to see Liberty vs Gorman part deux.

    As for "winded' Liberty players, yes. Without sounding arrogant or offensive it can and will be an issue. This isn't being negative nancy just critical and honest. Everyone has players going both ways, Gorman included. In fact we have a lot more playing both ways this season than the last few. This doesn't mean that the two way players are out of shape it's simply that naturally, playing such a high caliber opponent (it works both ways) they wont be the same in the 4th than in the 1st and it'll be who last the longest. We know Liberty can put up points and so will gorman.. it'll be who has what left in the second half.

    I said it to my buddy last season, if Liberty had 2 more decent linemen and another good LB or Corner last year, they may have hung in with Gorman. They had too many guys, specially on the line going both ways and they did great and kept up until the end of the game when they were beat.

  5. lvfootballfan, definitely agree on Nacua getting the MVP although i'd say i'd say Myloe Lewis runner up then Anu and Pumphrey.

    Green Valley had a lot of guys contribute to their success no one like Pumphrey or Nacua that would make the team completely different if they weren't there. Basic's two studs were very solid players, but unlike say Griggs and Beaulieu they didn't step up and make that MVP difference on more than a couple occasions this year.

  6. With credit given to Liberty, CoachDD do you really think that Liberty has been playing the last few weeks with the same enthusiasm, flash, confidence etc.. the last 4-5 weeks of the season as they did this past Saturday? I have no regrets about picking Coronado to win. The way you guys played this Saturday was outstanding but it WAS CLEARLY the most efficient game you guys have played all year. They played to their full potential on Saturday clearly, because had they done that the few weeks prior they wouldn't have been a play away from losing to Coro or Canyon the first time or Basic.

    Again, no kool-aid here but if you think that the Liberty that smoked Coronado on Saturday is the same one we've been watching all season, then you're on the kool aid. Clearly they were playing to their full potential this week because they were more motivated than they've been all season to get a shot at the one prize they've been wanting for the entire year. I wish Liberty had played with such motivation and fire all season, I'm glad we get the match up we all mostly wanted.

    Had anyone predicted 59-20 win by liberty they would have been laughed out of here, there was no indication based on their first meeting or their play over the last 6 weeks to think that was going to happen. I hope Liberty comes out next Saturday like they did this Saturday. It's the two best teams in the state playing for the title and I expect to see a hard hitting, good quality football game just like last year.

  7. whoa! A lotta heat up in here. The fun never ends in these comments. I, for one, am just happy to see Liberty and Gorman play for state! Shout out to Kai & Isaiah Nacua, Kiki (Marquis) Hunkin, Niko Kapeli, Tevis Labrador, Lott Haia-Kahalewai, Samson & Samuel Monterde, Anu (Jarrett) Solomon, Ethan Tuilagi, and Alofa Tevaseu. All of these boys are proud products of the Las Vegas Island Warriors football program and they all represent and make a difference in Liberty and Bishop Gorman's football teams. Play hard and fast this weekend! You'll be fighting each other to garner the win for your schools so don't let up at all! The Warrior brotherhood wouldn't have it any other way!
    As for all the other talk, I'll leave that in the bleachers, in the bars and this forum. LOL... It's the last game of the year for high school football so I'm going to be amped about this game where the real top 2 teams in Nevada are going to battle it out! Couldnt ask for a better game!

  8. SG1... based on the last 6 weeks of play, the close result of their first meeting, how is picking an upset by Coronado (all the while mentioning that you'd much rather see Liberty vs gorman) considered drinking the gorman kool aid? I saw (person or tv) 4 Liberty games this year and there's no way in hell anyone can say that Liberty has been playing to their full potential all season. CLEARLY they did so on Saturday and good for them, it's been in them all along maybe it just took extra motivation to get to it. Gormanhomer is the one that called you slow.

    I simply stated the obvious that yes, having so many of your studs playing both ways can hurt you in the 4th against a team like Gorman. That's no kool aid. I know Liberty will come to win, I know Muraco will pull everything out of his sleeve and I look forward to a great game. If Liberty can pull it off, then good for them, they deserve the title.

  9. SG1, I'm going to disagree and say that Palo and Centennial both had the confidence and actually did believe that they could win. Specially the second Centennial game. The difference is that Liberty not only believes it but they also have the ability to do so, perfect storm would do it. In a way I think if anything Liberty may hold a mental advantage over Gorman, nobody doesn't fear the G like Liberty and they know it. I think both sides are looking forward to going out and proving who is the better team on the field and we are all lucky to get to see this final. Best two teams in state on saturday, can't wait.

  10. CoachDD still can't answer a question but that's ok i guess. Congrats to your boys they played to their potential, you're celebrating over the fact that nobody could have guess based on their performances prior to this week that they'd come out and slaughter Coronado? Seriously? I didn't see you predict that score so kudos to you Mr. Monday Morning QB.

    Magic 8 ball, the picks are for fun dude if you're that butt hurt over people picking your school to get upset you go issues bro. Since the pre season I suggested it would be fun if everyone throws out their picks (many obliged) to make it more fun and since it's easy to give Ray and Keefer crap for when they're wrong while noone else puts their predictions out there. Anyway, the predictions, by all, have been fun to see and added to the chit chat. 99% of us don't actually get to see 90% of the teams play. But i'll have to say that my .831 average on picks this season is much better than an 8 ball prediction good sir.

  11. So what you're saying is you let Coronado, Basic and Canyon (2x) have a chance to win the game until the last seconds out of sportsmanship?

    Gorman would have had to start taking knees in the second quarter to avoid some of those blow outs. You're just bitter bro, I almost took you seriously for a second but you're clearly just hating. Next. Got a lot of respect for the Liberty family they've been nothing but respectful and mostly realistic. Go back to the Aloha Grille you're not a fair representative of knowledgeable and opinionated Liberty folks.

  12. Lol...foggy and one sighted? Pot calling the kettle black there. And no offense meant against the restaurant, I actually enjoy their food, was basically saying go back to your kool aid bro.

  13. Gormnan 49 Liberty 17 , That perty much says it all. And I don't think Gorman should be allowed to play .

  14. I have seen Gorman play a couple of times and after reading some of the stories on Liberty's team which from what I can tell is that they have a pretty good football team ... their downfall will be that they rely on 2 players a good coach will come up with a game plan to take those players out of their comfort zone. Gorman has to many weapons for Liberty to handle. I just watched a real good Ohio team get beat because they were 1 dimensional as their QB was dubbed Mr. Ohio and they got shellacked. I think Gorman pulls away to a 54-28 victory

  15. SG1, your comment about these kids not living up to expectations is so far from the truth. The Island Warriors program expects these boys to become respectable young men! And that's part of what makes the program special! If you knew anything about these young men, you would understand the success of the Island Warriors program.

    JT, I had the pleasure of watching another Island Warrior Alum play this past weekend. I'm actually bringing Kimo to Vegas to watch the Championship game this weekend. I'm sure there will be a little trash talk on the drive there. He'll be supporting his Liberty Patriots of course.

    Can't wait for a great game on Saturday. Actually hoping for a nail biter...won by the Gaels. Good luck to both teams!!!

  16. djonian81, it is obvious you are not a coach or maybe you're just not a competitive person. Hoping that your opponent doesnt do their level best against you is a sign of weakness and naivete. I trust BG will do its best to beat Liberty. Liberty will do their best to beat BG. That's football. Teams have good days and teams have bad days, but to hope that your opponent wouldn't bring anything other than their "A game" is just plain naive. If I win, I want to win knowing my opponent gave everything and I overcame their best to achieve the victory. If I lose, I want lose knowing that my opponent beat me while I gave my level best effort.
    BTW, the coach made his statement to his team after the game in his postgame speech "to his team". It wasn't given in an interview or to be quoted for public just ended up that way because Brewer was there too. He wasn't running his mouth as you say. Besides, what coach in his right mind in any sport would say "Let's just try to get thru the game and hope our opponents are caught slipping because we wont win it". If you dont believe you can win chances are you will not win. Muraco and his staff have a lot of respect for BG. No real football program in this valley who wants to be the top dog would think otherwise. Wanting to be the one's who knocks BG from the top spot simply recognizes that BG is the team to beat in Nevada. If that motivates Liberty's players to play to their full potential, then why is it a risk? Waking the BG machine might be a mystery to you because you may have some deep seeded desire for Liberty to beat BG. Maybe you really want the Gael's to take Liberty lightly and give up the game to them. In this sport, moral victories are hardly satisfying...LOL. If anything, I believe neither teams are concerned in the least about all that has been said or all that is being said or all that will be said. I think the teams just want to get at it already! Because no matter what is said anywhere, this year's truth is waiting to be told by Sam Boyd! :)

  17. Besides, I think there's a lot to be said for waking the Liberty machine! Go Patriots!!

  18. Relax killa. Dont take it personal. No disrespect intended. These blogs are where people post their opinions, agree and disagree with each other. Seems like you got so upset you felt the need to post your ethnic background up in here. But you're right...I dont know you Hawaiian. So my apologies if you felt I got personal with you. But come back from left field brah. No one was talking about perceived honor. Do you think Liberty should hope that BG should do less than their best? We dont! And nobody else does on either side. Because if something like that happens then there is too much room to make excuses for losing! All I'm saying is Muraco said what he said for his team. It wasnt made in effort to "intimidate BG" as you asked in your post. And now, if the public knows about it including BG coaches and players, then so what. Not as big deal as you think it is. Our disadvantaged less-talented team is still going to show up and try to win it all. And here's the thing, you've already stated BG is good enough already to beat us so Muraco's statement is of no consequence, right? It wont mean anything to Gorman if they really are already good enough, right? But it can mean a lot to our own boyz. It tells our boyz we have confidence in them. I've heard our coaches yell many times to our players in practice, "we dont care if they know where we running, they still gotta stop us!". This really isnt a big deal to us anyways. We only have to have 1 point more than Gorman by the end of the game in order to win. That's all..LOL. The bottom line is...knowing about this speech is not going to win the game for Gorman since they're already good enough. So no worries. You may think its a mistake, but we really dont give a rats about what was said and who knows it. Alohaz...

  19. 10-foa dxyl... i gotchu. my pad pradda! while i grind my piece of humble pie, try grind yoa d-line coach. LOL.. pad again uso. Purple and gold comin at ya! I, white and blue! :)