Las Vegas Sun

September 16, 2021

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Liberty crushes Las Vegas to take Sunrise championship

Patriots used physicality, big hits to rattle Wildcats

Liberty vs. Las Vegas

Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Liberty defensive back Teu Tai celebrates stopping Las Vegas during their game Friday, November 19, 2010. Liberty won 35-14.

Liberty vs. Las Vegas

Liberty quarterback Kai Nacua (L) and running back Teu Tai celebrate during the closing minutes of their game against Las Vegas Friday, November 19, 21010. Liberty won 35-14. Launch slideshow »

Liberty vs. Las Vegas

The Liberty High football team scored the game's first 35 points in beating Las Vegas High for the Sunrise Regional title. The Patriots advance to the state semifinals.

Prep Sports Now

Anticipation mounting for the Sunrise championship game

Las Vegas Sun reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer disagree on what will happen in the Sunrise Region championship game between Liberty and Las Vegas. They also break down the rest of the week's games.

Team pages

Each member of the Liberty defensive front seven thinks of himself as a brick.

Put together, they say, they create an impenetrable brick wall. Las Vegas High found that out the hard way Friday night in the Sunrise Region finals.

Liberty, Southeast Division champions, used a dominating defensive performance to knock Las Vegas, Northeast Division champions, out of the playoffs by a jaw-dropping 35-14 margin.

“The thing that hit us the most was when our coaches said speed can’t do anything against a brick wall,” junior defensive lineman Jordan Kapeli said. “That’s what we are.”

Advancing to the state semifinals, where Liberty will meet McQueen in Reno next week, isn’t supposed to be this easy.

The Patriots jumped out to a 35-0 lead after their first possession of the second half and stymied an explosive Wildcats offense. Through two-and-a-half quarters of play, Las Vegas had recorded only two out of 20 plays for positive yards with one first down.

Liberty had at least five sacks — with Sam Tai, Teu Tai and Spencer Hill-Hale involved in most of them — and two interceptions.

“This was the most focused the kids have been all season,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “They came out and did exactly what we asked of them — swarmed to the ball, did their assignments, stayed in their lanes and wrapped up and made some hard hits.”

The Liberty offense did its part, too. The Wildcats hadn’t given up 35 points to a Nevada team since 2008.

The Patriots scored on every one of their drives in the second quarter to take a 28-0 lead into the locker room.

The longest play came when Jordan Kapeli, a fullback on offense, broke through a congested left side of the line for a 42-yard touchdown.

“It was wedge play,” Muraco said. “Everyone steps down and like a bulldozer, they just plow ahead. The backs fake to the outside to pull people away. Jordan just ran it perfect. He stayed right behind the lineman, the big 300 pounders, and saw the seam.”

Kapeli scored a second touchdown with 20 seconds left in the first half to seal Player of the Game honors. He was Liberty’s leading rusher with nine carries for 79 yards.

His brother, sophomore Niko Kapeli, had 14 rushes for 70 yards. Ty Byrd, Kai Nacua and Anthony Morgan also had rushing touchdowns.

Combined, Liberty rushed for 251 yards.

“They were no less than what we expected,” Las Vegas coach Chris Faircloth said. “They are a big, physical team and those are the teams that keep playing.”

Las Vegas scored both of its touchdowns with less than five minutes remaining. Lamond Powe capped a long drive by scoring on a five-yard rush.

The Wildcats recovered an onside kick after the score and quarterback Hasaan Henderson hit Cameron Rogers for a 48-yard touchdown pass on the next play.

It was a picturesque play, but way too late.

“We couldn’t overcome what we put ourselves in,” Faircloth said. “It was a bad situation.”

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

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