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May 22, 2019

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Gators get shutout win on homecoming night

Liberty at Green Valley

Kyle B. Hansen

Liberty’s Ian Jackson (8) tackles Green Valley’s Dallas Halasz (5) during Friday night’s game.

Green Valley defeats Liberty in homecoming game

The Green Valley marching band enters the stadium in preparation for Friday's homecoming game against Liberty. Launch slideshow »

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Green Valley High football coach Matt Gerber cut right to the point late Friday night when he addressed his team after its 17-0 homecoming victory over Liberty.

“Defense,” Gerber yelled with his players in front of him on the field, “there’s your shutout!”

The hoots and hollers flowed after the Gators won their fourth consecutive game to improve to 5-2 overall and 3-0 in the Southeast League.

Then Green Valley senior quarterback Nick Libonati addressed his teammates, doing a two-second haka dance that he ended with a mock slash of his throat.

Liberty has been doing its own version of a “haka,” a Polynesian war dance, before its games this season. Libonati said it was all in fun, and that one of his teammates is of Pacific Island heritage.

“I’ve always wanted to learn that dance,” Libonati said. “I think it’s pretty cool that they do that. I respect that. Just messin’ with them.”

The Gators, especially their kicking game, messed with the Patriots (3-4, 1-3 in the Southeast) all night in windy conditions.

With the wind at his back, Green Valley standout kicker Nolan Kohorst, a junior, drilled a 51-yard field goal that sailed through the goalposts to cap the Gators’ first possession.

The Patriots had brutal field position all night, starting three drives from their own 1-, 4- and 5-yard line.

They crossed midfield once, on their first series of the second quarter. After two 1-yard runs, Green Valley senior defensive back Caleb Canady caused a fumble 8 yards behind the line and recovered the ball.

“I thought we’d be successful moving the ball,” said Liberty coach Lou Markouzis. “I thought we’d be able to control the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately, tonight our big boys weren’t able to control the line. Hats off to Green Valley.”

In three of their past four games, the Patriots have scored 6, 6 and 0 points. Friday was their first shutout of a once-promising season.

“I don’t have an answer for you,” Markouzis said. “I wish I did. I have to watch the film. I’m shocked and amazed that we were unable to score one point tonight.”

Green Valley senior Taylor Jones made it 10-0 on a 2-yard touchdown run three plays into the second quarter.

A thin Liberty crowd followed its team to Green Valley, and it booed at halftime when one of the Beatles-themed homecoming floats featured the Abbey Road album.

“The Beatles are walking on Abbey Road,” blared the public-address announcer, “like the Gators will be walking all over the Patriots.”

That’s what the 6-foot-1 Libonati did with 25 seconds remaining, when he darted up the middle for a 29-yard touchdown run on a fourth-and-6 play to finish the game’s scoring.

“I was just trying to get the first down, and it opened up like no other,” Libonati said. “I said, why not score?”

Green Valley coach Matt Gerber said Libonati has speed.

“It’s just a matter of him wanting to show it,” Gerber said. “He certainly showed it on that play.”

It was not an ordinary play, either, according to Gerber, who knows all to well about the finer points of tie-breaker playoff systems.

Games in which his team has scored fewer than 13 points have haunted Gerber.

“I said, guys, we have to get one in there,” he said. “We hadn’t called that play all night. The way it goes, games in which you don’t score 13 points could hurt you. I’ve been on teams like that.”

Green Valley hurt the run-oriented Patriots early and often, yielding only 109 yards of total offense.

“With this wind, I thought special teams would be big for us,” Gerber said. “They had to go long distances the whole night. We forced them into some things they didn’t want to do.

“Our defense did a hell of a job.”

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