Saturday, Oct. 18, 2008 | 12:05 a.m.
- Wildcats dominate rivalry game in showdown of offenses
- Chaparral keeps cleat after rivalry game
- Win puts Basic back in postseason
- Late conversion lifts Green Valley to dramatic win
- Healthy Palo Verde squad cruises to win
- Three turnovers doom Boulder City
- Roundup of other Las Vegas area prep games
- High school football scoring updates
The Liberty High School football team has a bandwagon this season and no one is having a hard time jumping on.
"The excitement is everywhere," Patriots coach Lou Markouzis said. "It permeates down all the way from the principal to the other students to the teachers. It has been 100 percent -- Liberty has bought into our football program."
The excitement is on the field, too, as the Patriots were flagged with an excessive celebration penalty after halfback Shawn Murray hooked up with senior Ian Jackson on a 73-yard halfback pass in a 32-8 home win over the Coronado Cougars Friday night. The win kept them in the 4A Southeast playoff hunt at 4-4.
After rushing for 128 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, Murray was fine sharing the end zone with a teammate.
"Everything felt really good tonight," Murray said. "To throw a touchdown pass as a running back, it was something new. I've never had a chance to do that before. I'm just so excited. Words can't describe it."
Murray has been a gift to a struggling program since he transferred to Liberty from Arbor View this season for his senior year. Markouzis said he's been making a difference all season.
"Shawn is a tremendous athlete. He's been the backbone of our offensive production," Makouzis said. "He's Mister Everything for us. We're very blessed to have him. He's that spark that we need on all sides of the ball."
Even though his teammates may see him as the jump start to their breakout year, Murray said he never felt like he was entering a desperate program.
"Coming into the season I knew we'd have a good team," Murray said. "We had some new coaches, new players. They told us the past is the past, the future is today and you got to make it what you want."
Murray and the offense stole the spotlight Friday, but the defense may have been even more impressive, not allowing a first down until midway through the second quarter. It held the Cougar ground game to 19 yards on 15 carries, while sacking quarterback Dane Cooper twice and picking him off once.
"This was the first game all year I felt like we just got beat, physically beat," Cougars coach John Mannion said. "I have to take responsibility for that. I don't know if they weren't prepared or what. We were getting blown off the ball, we couldn't block anything, we couldn't run the football. We got nothing done."
After so many seasons filled with blowout losses though, the Patriots can't help but enjoy feeling the other side of a game.
"In the past, we were losing games by four, five, even six touchdowns in some cases," said Markouzis, who has been the coach from the start. "We realize that we've closed the gap between some of the competitors we go against. And as Liberty grows, we continue to bring up good players in our program we know we can build the kind of success that goes year after year after year, which has been the vision from the start."
With a legitimate shot at their first playoff appearance, the Patriots are proving their coaches right: the past is the past. The rest of the league is starting to believe it, too.
"They're a big, strong team now," Mannion said. "We better strap it up next time."