Published Friday, Sept. 24, 2010 | 10:12 p.m.
Updated Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010 | 1:26 a.m.
The Bishop Gorman High football team will be in the national spotlight Saturday when they travel to Northern California to face nationally respected De La Salle. The game will be televised by CBS College Sports, giving the Gaels a chance to make a splash — for themselves and the Las Vegas area.
Liberty High sophomore quarterback Kai Nacau orchestrated a fourth-quarter comeback Friday night, leading the Patriots from 10 points down with less than three minutes to play to a 32-30 overtime win against host Del Sol.
Nacua’s 1-yard touchdown run on the second play of overtime gave Liberty its first lead, and Teu Tai added on the 2-point conversion for a 32-24 advantage.
Del Sol, which was two yards away from picking up a first down late in regulation to run out the clock, wasted no time scoring on its overtime possession.
Del Sol junior tailback Chris Marshall, who scored two touchdowns and passed for another, rushed in from 10 yards out on Del Sol’s first play of overtime. Marshall, however, was stopped short on his attempt at a 2-point conversion to end the game.
The win showed Liberty, and its young quarterback, could compete with the state’s elite. Del Sol has played in the last four Sunrise Regional championship games and was the state runner-up last year.
Liberty (3-1, 2-0), which is considered by several one of the state’s top three teams, now has the experience of playing from behind.
“This was a big step for the kids being able to grow up when they were down in the fourth quarter,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said.
Nacua’s 81-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Lagasca with 2:33 to play cut the Patriots’ deficit to 24-21. They got the ball back with 1:25 left and drove into field goal range for kicker Marcos Rivera to boot a 34-yard attempt as time expired.
“We just have that heart,” Lagasca said. “We are champions. We don’t give up.”
The win gave Nacua the confidence that he can perform at a top level. He was intercepted twice in the season opener against Palo Verde, with both turnovers that lead to touchdowns in a three-point loss.
Nacua picked the right time to find his rhythm. He completed 7-of-15 passes for 173 yards, including connecting on 5-of-7 passes during the final three minutes to even the score.
“Going into that Palo Verde game he was really nervous, and it showed,” Muraco said. “But our quarterback coach has been working with him and telling him not to get down on himself.”
Nacua seemed like a seasoned veteran, not a nervous underclassman, in leading the Patriots’ rally. Liberty will still be a run-first team, but now they will have an added weapon in Nacua.
“Our goal is to go to state. We aren’t going to let up on anyone,” he said.
Del Sol’s Dwayne Kirkland returned the opening kickoff of the second half 97 yards for a touchdown to give Del Sol a 21-7 lead. But a crucial fumble by Marshall deep in Liberty territory in the third quarter and two mishaps in coverage in the defensive secondary helped Liberty chip away at the deficit.
“Give Liberty credit. They fought until the end,” Del Sol coach Preston Goroff said. “You can’t give a good team like that opportunity after opportunity.”
Even with Liberty’s rally, Marshall was the star of the game. He rushed for 276 yards on 37 carries, had a 70-yard touchdown run and threw a 3-yard touchdown pass.
“We knew the Marshall kid was going to be tough,” Muraco said.