Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015 | 5:28 p.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports editors Ray Brewer and Case Keefer go over the state semifinal matchups in high school football.
Calvin Tubbs might the Liberty High football team’s most versatile player.
The 5-foot-11, 235-pound senior has played multiple positions on both sides of the ball over the past three years, usually finding success because he’s more physical than the opposition.
At running back, he’s tough to tackle because he is bigger and stronger. At linebacker or on the defensive line, he’s always looking for contact.
Saturday, he showed off another dimension of his game, catching a short pass and racing untouched 63 yards for a touchdown in the Patriots' 62-29 victory against host Basic in the Sunrise Regional championship game.
Liberty won a sixth straight Sunrise crown to set up a showdown with Bishop Gorman in next week’s state championship game. If anyone can beat Gorman, the six-time defending state championship and reigning mythical national champs, it could very well be Liberty.
The Patriots, as witnessed against Basic, have plenty of weapons.
Whether it's Tubbs turning what should have been a short gain into a big play or emerging tailback Stephon Stowers adding to his breakout month with 200 yards of offense and four touchdowns, this Liberty team is different from the one that Gorman beat by seven touchdowns in last year’s state semifinals.
“It’s not about one person, the captains or anyone,” Tubbs said. “We each put in the same amount of work so we could shine together.”
Liberty is still big and physical enough on the offensive line to potentially stand up to Gorman. But it also has talent at the skill positions and scores more than 50 points per game.
Sophomore quarterback Kenyon Oblad passed for five touchdowns and nearly 300 yards, junior Darion Acohido returned the game’s opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown and Arie McQuaig had an interception return for a touchdown. And Liberty (11-1) has multiple players with big-game experience, such as four-year varsity players Alofania Tevaseu and Bryan Roland, and junior Ethan Dedeaux, who is arguably the state’s best two-way player.
“Our quote is, ‘Always compete, always attack,’” Tevaseu said. “Just keep our heads up; keep fighting. We have more talent, more speed, more power, so if we keep competing (against Gorman), anything can happen.”
The transformation started on Thanksgiving weekend last year. Liberty was outclassed against Gorman in the state semifinals, losing 50-0 in a humbling defeat. The Patriots thought they had closed the gap of disparity between the programs, but Gorman was simply in another league.
Liberty coach Rich Muraco wasted little time sulking. A few weeks later, he had players back in the weight room, knowing the only way to dethrone Gorman was to make players stronger. One year later, he feels this team is different.
A blowout win against Basic helps support his feeling, but Muraco knows the true answer will come next Saturday.
“Next week is a different beast. It’s a state championship game against a program that has dominated Nevada for seven years,” Muraco said. “It’s nice to know the next-best team in our region, we handled them kind of easily. Maybe that gives us confidence going into Gorman game.”
Sean White had a pair of touchdown runs for Basic, but its offense struggled most of the night. The Wolves won the Southeast League championship and played in the Sunrise championship game for the second straight year, but had no answers for Liberty. Last season, Basic lost by just 12 points; this year, it wasn’t close.
Maybe Muraco is right. Maybe this Liberty team can give Gorman fits.
“At first, we were just ground and pound. Now we have more athletes,” Tubbs said. “Hopefully it all continues to next week. That’s the game we have been waiting for.”