STEPHEN SYLVANIE / SPECIAL TO THE SUN
Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014 | 12:28 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer try to atone for an obnoxious case of overreaction after the first week of games by dialing back their opinions. They also debate Liberty vs. Coronado, and come out on opposite sides regarding how the game will play out.
Momentum can be completely on your side until, suddenly, it’s not. It feels like a punch to the gut when it leaves and the hits feel more impactful with each pivot when teams trade blows like Liberty and Coronado on Friday night at Freedom Field.
Turnovers were the only thing keeping Liberty out of the end zone at first, and then on fourth down in the final minute of the first half one of those turnovers went 81 yards the other way for a 10-0 Coronado lead.
That’s momentum, right? Liberty’s Ethan Dedeaux made sure it didn’t feel that way for long. Dedeaux took the ensuing kickoff back 100 yards for a touchdown that helped the Patriots get themselves something positive to build on in a 14-13 victory against their rival from across St. Rose Parkway.
“Great players step up and make big plays in big situations and he did it,” said Liberty coach Rich Muraco.
Liberty (3-0) started the second half with a three-and-out on defense and then fifth-string running back Kylen Camat-Toki made sure momentum was still on his team’s side with a 78-yard touchdown run. Those two plays — Liberty’s last touch of the first half and first touch offensive touch of the second half — were outliers in a game controlled by the defenses.
“We’re going to live and die by our defense this year,” Muraco said. “That’s the strength of our team. … Couldn’t be more proud of their effort.”
Liberty senior Noah Jefferson, a USC commit, was causing a lot of problems up front, as was Josh Bernard Lee. For much of the game Coronado’s defensive line was just as good if not better, getting into the Patriots’ backfield often and then pouncing on their mistakes.
In the first half Liberty gave away two fumbles plus that interception by the Cougars’ Koy Harris. Paired with Spencer Cofer’s 46-yard field goal in the first quarter, Coronado (1-1) seemed to have enough to keep Liberty’s struggling offense at an arm’s length. Then came Dedeaux’s return.
“They got all the momentum in the world at that point,” Muraco said. “If we go into the half down 10-0 who knows if we come out and win this game.”
On his touchdown run, Camat-Toki came out of a deep set in the backfield and kept his feet churning while looking for a hole. Once it opened he was off to the races and Camat-Toki finished with 108 yards on eight carries.
Liberty couldn’t exhale until Cofer’s rushed, last-second attempt from 52 yards fell harmlessly left of the uprights. It certainly wasn’t easy but in the long run that could be good for Liberty.
“I think it’s important for teams to learn how to win close games and hard-fought games,” Muraco said. “We’ve got a real tough stretch these next four weeks. Hopefully these guys will see that if we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot with penalties and limit the turnovers, we’ll be in every game.”