Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Friday, Aug. 22, 2014 | 2 a.m.
For an example of Liberty High’s recent supremacy on the gridiron, consider that kids starting high school as freshmen this year weren’t yet out of elementary school the last time the Patriots lost a game in the Sunrise Region.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer return to the studio to discuss all of Las Vegas' high school football teams a week before the start of the season.
Liberty carries a streak of 38 straight wins against conference opponents — its last loss came to Del Sol in the 2009 Sunrise semifinals — into the upcoming season.
“We pride ourselves on our success in the past,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “The kids have bought into the program.”
When Muraco arrived at Liberty in 2009, the Patriots were a perennial punching bag with no winning seasons or playoff appearances in school history. They’ve done the swinging ever since, laying waste to all opposition in the southern part of the valley and winning four straight Sunrise titles.
Throughout the aforementioned 38-game region winning streak, only eight contests were decided by a touchdown or less. The closest came last year, though.
Liberty barely snuck past Canyon Springs 24-21 in the playoffs before beating Green Valley 56-43 in a Sunrise championship game that was closer than the final score indicated. Put simply, rivals are tired of the dominance.
They’re working year-around to end the reign.
“It’s nice to know that people are coming after us,” said senior lineman Josh Bernard-Lee.
That’s the kind of gritty attitude Muraco wants out of his players. The Patriots’ brand of football might revert to being more hard-nosed in 2014.
Bernard-Lee anchors a line that includes a few players with the skill level to play collegiately. Senior defensive end and tight end Noah Jefferson, a 6-foot-6 280 pound monster, is committed to USC.
The Patriots have an arsenal of capable ball carriers including senior Ethan Tuilagi, junior Calvin Tubbs and junior Bryan Roland. Combining offense and defense, they return a gaudy 16 starters.
But a glaring omission from that group is quarterback, where a four-man position battle is taking place including freshman Kenyon Oblad.
“The style of offense is going to depend on how quickly the (quarterbacks) grasp the offense so we can do the things we want to do,” Muraco said. “Last year, we took advantage of defenses. If they brought six guys in the box, we were going to run the ball. If they put seven or eight guys in the box, we were going to pass the ball. We’d like to do that again this year but we’ll see how those guys handle it.”
Given the talent at receiver, Muraco is dead-set at keeping the passing game a major component of the offense. Jefferson must get the ball in his hands a couple of times per game. Roland mostly lines up out wide.
Liberty also has an electrifying tandem of sophomore receivers in Ethan Dedeaux and Darian Acohido.
“Honestly, this is probably the most talented skill guys, skillset, of players I’ve ever had,” Muraco said.
That’s really saying something for Liberty, a team that’s not only walloped so many opponents but also transformed into a factory of Football Bowl Subdivision players.
The success is extra-special with where Liberty started in the football landscape. But it’s not all the Patriots are looking for.
“They really aren’t satisfied,” Muraco said of his team. “Regional championships are great but we’re aiming for that state championship.”