Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012 | 1:35 a.m.
The Sunrise Region football champion will be?
- Which team is going to win the Sunrise Region football title?
- Liberty — 36.9%
- Coronado — 21.7%
- Green Valley — 21.2%
- Basic — 11.7%
- Canyon Springs — 5.8%
- Other — 2.7%
This poll is closed, see Full Results »
Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer recount their experience coaching the Las Vegas All-Star team against Findlay Prep in basketball and move on to football talk in the 11th Prep Sports Now of the year.
Before Friday night, the receiver/kicker had never caught a touchdown pass. He scored all three of the Cougars' touchdowns against the Wolves.
Before this year, Laliberte had worked diligently only to see Coronado’s varsity team win a total of six games in two years. The Cougars won their seventh of 2012 Friday night, which came with something even more rewarding to Laliberte and his teammates — a home playoff game against Las Vegas High next week.
“I’ve been at Coronado all these years and we’ve never had a playoff game,” Laliberte said with a grin stretched across his face and sweat still dripping down his brow. “To have one at home is just unbelievable. It’s something great. I forget, I don’t even know (what to say).”
Laliberte came off as nearly in shock minutes after accounting for all of the Cougars' points in one of the biggest victories in school history. Coronado capped off its best regular season since 2003.
And it was all so close to ending on a sour note. The Cougars were listless early, falling into a 20-0 hole with 2 1/2 minutes remaining in the first quarter.
“We don’t always have the greatest starts,” Laliberte said, “but we know how to finish. We really do.”
The two players Coronado coach Brad Talich spent the week warning his team about — Basic’s Antraye Johnson and DeVonte Boyd — struck fast with touchdown receptions.
Johnson, who had more than 200 yards of offense on the night, took a Jalen Rose pass 65 yards for the first score. After Rose ran in a touchdown from 15 yards out, Boyd caught a 20-yard strike in the back of the end zone.
Boyd, one of UNLV’s top recruiting prospects, finished with 10 catches for 136 yards.
“We don’t have anyone like that,” said Talich, who's in his first year at Coronado. “We don’t have anyone who’s as athletic as (Boyd) or (Johnson), but we knew if our kids played as a team we could do well.”
That’s why Talich decided not to change anything after the disastrous first half. Instead, he asked new players to step up.
They emerged in droves. On defense, Jason Warren and Kai Mercado each picked off a pass. James Villarreal sacked Rose to force a three-and-out on a critical Basic possession. Kieran Eissler made several big hits and limited yards after the catch for Basic’s dynamic duo.
But no one fit the theme of rising to the occasion better than Laliberte. Sensing the Cougars would need to utilize more speed on offense, Talich started having Laliberte stay after practice to work on receiving in recent weeks.
“Chris is an excellent blocker and he does a great job sacrificing himself for other players,” Talich said. “But when the time called, we needed Chris tonight. We’ve been working with him on catching the football.”
Laliberte caught touchdown passes of 28 and 19 yards in the second quarter. He knocked through a 30-yard field goal right before halftime to make the score 20-17.
Consecutive sacks from bulldozing Basic defender Jon Scoffield stalled Coronado’s initial drive out of halftime. Upon getting the ball back, the Cougars looked toward Laliberte again.
Quarterback Kevin Lucero, who finished 12-for-21 for 136 yards, found Laliberte open down the seam for a 30-yard touchdown.
“I was just having a good night,” Laliberte said.
The final 17 minutes of the game weren’t without their tense moments for the Cougars, though. Basic twice drove inside the red zone in the fourth quarter.
The Wolves got to first-and-goal at the nine-yard line with eight minutes to go, but tight coverage prevented Rose from completing a touchdown pass on three attempts and the Cougars stuffed a run play.
With two minutes remaining, Basic got back into striking range at the 15-yard line because of big plays from Johnson and Boyd. Coronado hung strong again.
Rose appeared to have an open receiver in the end zone on a fourth-down play with 1:40 left, but Coronado’s Cody Mucino stepped in front of the pass for an interception.
“He’s a big-time player,” Talich said of Mucino. “He’s a hidden gem. I don't think a lot of people know about him, but he’s a special kid.”
Talich credited Mucino, Laliberte and the rest of Coronado’s seniors for keeping the faith no matter the deficit.
“We felt if we hung in there, we had what we felt like was a good plan,” Talich said.