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Liberty capitalizes on turnovers to beat Green Valley

Updated Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011 | 1:22 a.m.

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Liberty High scored 23 points off seven Green Valley turnovers to take sole possession of first place in the Southeast Division with a 37-17 victory over the Gators on Friday.

“My defensive coaches did an amazing job game-planning,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “Our defense did a great job mixing up the coverage and making the picks when they had to then, at the end of the game, getting the pressure on the quarterback and getting sacks.”

After losing its first game of the season to Arbor View, Liberty has responded with six consecutive wins, four in league play.

“We learned from Arbor View that it wasn’t over,” Liberty running back Niko Kapeli said. “We bounced back and got stronger after that. We keep on working harder.”

Green Valley, meanwhile, saw its five-game winning streak come to an end as the Gators suffered their first loss in league play to fall to 3-1 in the Southeast Division.

Green Valley backup quarterback Kyler Chavez, who filled in for starter Jacob Olim, was intercepted three times in the first half. Two of those picks came deep in Liberty territory.

But Green Valley’s defense was able to hold the Patriots’ offense scoreless after each interception.

The Gators, however, couldn’t keep Liberty off the scoreboard after Green Valley turned the ball over for a fourth time in the first half on a muffed punt.

Following the muffed punt, Liberty opened up the scoring late in the second quarter on a Niko Kapeli 1-yard touchdown run to give the Patriots a 7-0 advantage.

The two teams exchanged field goals in the final minute of the first half to give the Patriots a 10-3 halftime lead.

On Green Valley’s first possession of the second half, the Gators tied the game at 10 with a Chavez 1-yard touchdown run on a quarterback keeper.

Chavez’s touchdown run came on the play after he connected with senior running back Aaron Love for a 64-yard reception.

On Liberty’s ensuing possession, junior quarterback Kai Nacua completed a 75-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Jeremy Lagasca on a third-and-15 play with 7:52 remaining in the third quarter to give the Patriots a 17-10 lead.

“That was really big,” Muraco said. “That was probably the play of the game for us offensively. They just tied the game and we had third-and-long. Kai made a perfect throw and Jeremy made a great catch and was able to outrun the defense.”

Lagasca finished the game with two receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown.

Lagasca’s long touchdown reception swung the momentum back in Liberty’s favor as the Patriots went on to score 27 unanswered points after Green Valley tied the game at 10.

“I feel like that was a big play,” Lagasca said. “We weren’t really scoring that much, but that helped get our offense going.”

Liberty senior fullback Jordan Kapeli scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 41 seconds remaining in the third quarter to extend the Patriots’ lead to 24-10.

“Jordan, in my opinion, is the best fullback in the state,” Muraco said. “We try to reward him every once in a while when we get down by the end zone.”

Jordan Kapeli had 49 yards rushing and a touchdown on six carries to celebrate Senior Night.

Liberty put the game out of reach on the first play of the fourth quarter when senior defensive lineman Sky Hesia intercepted a deflected Chavez throw and returned the interception 32 yards for a score.

The Patriots took a 30-10 lead following a missed Austin Fitzgerald point-after try.

Niko Kapeli helped set up Liberty’s final touchdown of the evening with a 23-yard run to the Green Valley 2-yard line in the fourth quarter. He had 189 yards and a touchdown on 38 carries.

Nacua scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak two plays later to hand the Patriots a 37-10 lead.

Green Valley capped the scoring with an 88-yard touchdown strike from Chavez to senior receiver Sean Ferraro with 7:34 remaining to trim the deficit to 37-17.

Liberty, however, used its punishing rushing attack to kill the clock and remain unbeaten in league play.

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