Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Friday, Oct. 31, 2014 | 1:10 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer celebrate rivalry week in Southern Nevada by discussing the big three — Centennial vs. Arbor View, Bishop Gorman vs. Palo Verde and Las Vegas vs. Liberty. They also touch on the Division 1A playoffs.
Some freshman quarterbacks might be rattled by a 17-point deficit on the road in a key game with playoff seeding on the line.
Not Kenyon Oblad.
The freshman signal caller completed 20 of 28 passes for 453 yards and three touchdowns to help Liberty rally for a 48-20 victory at Las Vegas High on Thursday night to cap the regular season and clinch a home playoff game for the Patriots.
“It’s huge,” Oblad said. “If we won this game, we moved up. This one really helped us.”
Liberty finished 7-2 overall and 3-1 in the Division I Northeast race, spoiling a chance for Las Vegas (5-4, 3-1) to clinch an outright league title on its Senior Night in front of a packed Nails Field crowd.
The Patriots will host Southeast No. 3 seed Green Valley in a battle of Sunrise Region powers to open the Division I Sunrise playoffs at 7 p.m. on Nov. 7. Las Vegas grabbed the Northeast’s No. 3 seed and will play at Southeast No. 2 seed Foothill.
Liberty did itself no favors early in Thursday’s game by losing three first-quarter fumbles that Las Vegas parlayed into a 17-0 lead.
The Patriots lost a fumble on a punt return, and Las Vegas center Frankie Valenzuela recovered in the end zone to give the Wildcats a 7-0 cushion. Liberty lost a fumble on the next play from scrimmage, and Las Vegas cashed in with a 28-yard field goal from Astrid Catalan to go up 10-0 with 7:21 left in the first quarter.
Liberty lost its third fumble to set up a 26-yard touchdown pass from Trevor Swenson to Kode Mwirigi for a 17-0 lead with 5:56 remaining in the first quarter.
“This was for a home playoff game. Sometimes when kids really want it bad, they make mistakes, and that’s what happened,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said of the fumbles.
But the Patriots settled down, seizing momentum on Oblad’s 24-yard touchdown pass to Sun Preseason All-City honoree Noah Jefferson. Jefferson, a tight end and defensive lineman who has verbally committed to USC, ran through defenders and bulled his way into the end zone to bring Liberty within 17-7.
“Noah, he’s a D-1 athlete, a role model,” Oblad said.
Oblad then found sophomore receiver Ethan Dedeaux streaking down the middle for a 67-yard TD to make it 17-14 with 6:29 left before halftime.
“I saw the safety roll down and went over the safety,” Dedeaux said. “That was a big momentum swing.”
Whatever momentum Las Vegas had eroded along with its lead 2:01 before halftime, when Calvin Tubbs plunged in for a 5-yard touchdown run and a 21-17 Liberty lead.
In the second half, Liberty got a 5-yard touchdown run from Spencer Wilson, a 2-yard TD run from Alofania Tevaseu, a 38-yard scoring strike from Oblad to Jameson Pasigan and a 6-yard TD run from Wilson.
Liberty could have won by an even wider margin, but the Patriots elected to take a delay of game from the Las Vegas 1-yard line in the final minute, rather than run up the score.
It was the type of all-around dominant showing expected of Liberty from the start of the season.
“We hit a rough patch in the middle of the season and got on a roll, and we wanted to keep it going,” Muraco said.
Muraco wasn’t surprised by Oblad’s performance.
“He’s a very talented kid,” Muraco said. “I knew he had this ability all year. He’s capable of putting these kinds of numbers up every week.”
Muraco credited the Patriots’ offensive line with protecting the freshman, who was able to connect with eight receivers.
“With these receivers, it’s easy to get them the ball,” Oblad said. “And the line blocks great every play.”
Dedeaux racked up 171 yards on six catches.
“We feel good. We have a lot of options,” Dedeaux said. “The run game set us up nice.”
Ethan Tuilagi rushed for 40 yards on eight carries, and Darius Alston ripped off a 47-yard run for the Patriots.
Swenson completed 23 of 42 passes, with the one touchdown and one interception. Freshman running back Elijah Hicks rushed for 78 yards for the Wildcats.
Preston Pavlica snared an interception for the Liberty defense, and Tyshon Raybon had an interception for Las Vegas.