Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014 | 1 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer debate over whether the four best teams in town all reside in the Sunset Region — Bishop Gorman, Arbor View, Centennial and Palo Verde. They then get into all of their big games this week that should provide the answers, including a Bishop Gorman vs. Saint John Bosco (California) matchup that may decide the mythical national championship.
With the Patriots holding a three-touchdown lead, their punter was sacked on their 1-yard line after poor protection from the special-teams unit.
The Liberty defense made up for the miscue.
The Patriots stopped Palo Verde on four straight plays on the goal line to force a turnover on downs in a 19-2 victory.
“We just brought relentless pressure to the quarterback and backfield,” Liberty junior defensive end Rudy Bukassa said. “We put our hand in the dirt and said we can’t be beat.”
Three times throughout the game, Palo Verde had the ball inside the Liberty 15. Three times, the defense held Palo Verde off the scoreboard.
Liberty had seven starters out with injuries but didn’t miss a beat because of its defense. Palo Verde finished with fewer than 200 yards, often finding few openings to run through with its misdirection rushing attack because the Liberty defense seemed to always be in the right place. And when Palo Verde passed, Liberty’s Preston Pavlica had two interceptions.
“Not a lot of programs can handle having that many quality people out,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “(The depth) shows where we are at with our program.”
Liberty’s offense produced a few good plays, especially when sophomore Ethan Dedeaux touched the ball.
The speedy Dedeaux continued to impress during his breakout season, scoring on a 78-yard pass from Kenyon Oblad late in the second quarter and on a 25-yard run in third quarter. He has five touchdowns in five games and also plays defensive back.
“He is amazing. He is the best sophomore in town,” Muraco said.
Palo Verde’s lone points came in the fourth quarter when multiple Panthers blocked a Liberty punt from the end zone. The ball went out of the back of the end zone before Palo Verde could recover, but Palo Verde still broke the Liberty shutout.
“Obviously we have to work on our punt team,” Muraco said.
Liberty, the four-time defending Sunrise Region champion, opens Northeast League play next week against Canyon Springs. Last year, Liberty beat Canyon Springs by just three points in the playoffs. This year’s game could determine the Northeast champs.
And when Canyon Springs needs to get one yard, it might not come that easy. Just ask Palo Verde.
“Our defensive line is the strength of our team,” Muraco said. “When our backs are to the wall, so to speak, at the goal line, they believe they can stop the other team.”