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September 5, 2015

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high school football:

Liberty football comes up short in California opener

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Liberty’s Niko Kapeli from the Sun’s All-City team.

Prep Sports Now

Nevada teams hold it down nationally

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Bishop Gorman and Faith Lutheran pulled off upsets against out-of-state opponents last week. Can Liberty follow suit when it travels to Southern California to challenge Crespi Saturday night? Gorman's got another televised contest, too — against Saint Louis in Hawaii. Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer break down these contests and more on this edition of Prep Sports Now.

Liberty High’s Niko Kapeli rushed for 254 yards and three touchdowns Saturday, but it wasn’t enough as the Patriots dropped their season opener at host Crespi High of Southern California, 42-28.

While Liberty trailed the entire game, it was inches away from taking an early touchdown advantage. The Patriots drove nearly 80 yards on their opening series but quarterback Kai Nacua’s attempted plunge into the end zone on fourth down from the 1-yard line came up inches short.

Liberty finished with more than 350 rushing yards. The outcome might have been different if the Patriots gained that one extra yard from Nacua.

“Physically, we did what we thought we would be able to do against them in the power running game,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “It was definitely good to know we can still pound it up front (against California competition).”

Liberty, which trailed 22-7 at halftime, was its own worst enemy defensively with missed tackles and a blown coverage assignments in the secondary for two long touchdown passes, Muraco said.

“We didn’t tackle real well, again,” Muraco said. “We definitely have some work to do defensively. It was all mental, nothing physical.”

It was Liberty’s first game of the season and Crespi’s third — something that was obvious, Muraco said.

“Not to make excuses, but we really made those first-game mistakes,” Muraco said.

Kapeli, who is the Liberty program’s all-time leading rusher and verbally committed to UNLV, was the Patriots’ main source of offense. Jay Mitchell added 10 carries for 95 yards, and Nacua rushed for a touchdown and passed for about 50 yards.

Liberty, the back-to-back Sunrise Region champions, are expected to make another playoff run this fall. They showed Saturday —even in defeat — that there is quality football being played in the south Henderson area.

“We are set up well for when we get back to town,” Muraco said. “Obviously, we have some things to fix on the defensive side of the ball. But it was a great experience coming all this way to play a team from California and knowing you were right there having a chance to win if you get a few breaks.”

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or ray.brewer@lasvegassun.com. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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