STEPHEN SYLVANIE / SPECIAL TO THE SUN
Published Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015 | 12:35 a.m.
Updated Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015 | 1:36 a.m.
In a game that had 1,286 yards of total offense, 129 points and 19 touchdowns, the only number that mattered was the number one — as in one huge win for Liberty.
Plenty of doubt surrounded the Patriots (0-1) as they took on defending Hawaii state champion Mililani on Friday night.
They were fresh off of a blowout loss to another Hawaiian school — St. Louis — and had never defeated an opponent from outside Nevada.
All of that changed Friday as junior Ethan Dedeaux scored seven touchdowns to lead Liberty to a 76-53 win over the No. 10 team in the country as rated by MaxPreps.
“We have played a lot of really good teams, but we came up short in the past, so to beat a team like this when pretty much no one gave us a shot, I’m just so proud of the kids and the coaching staff,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said.
From the start, it appeared both teams had lost their defenses. They traded touchdowns on the first six possessions, and the game didn’t see its first punt until the end of the first quarter.
Mililani quarterback Mckenzie Milton, a top-10 national quarterback prospect, came out of the gate on fire, throwing for three touchdowns in the opening quarter.
He finished the first half with 214 yards and four scores through the air, but the Trojans still trailed 39-32, thanks to an unbelievable performance by Liberty’s Dedeaux.
Dedeaux scored on touchdown runs of 35, 25 and 12 yards in the first half, and helped Liberty extend its lead to 47-32 with a 65-yard touchdown catch to start the second half.
“He is the best player in the state of Nevada, hands down,” Muraco said. “I’ll put him up against everybody.”
Mililani was able to answer the score with a 13-yard touchdown run by Vavae Malepeai, who finished the game with 152 yards and three touchdowns.
But Dedeaux took the following kickoff return 97 yards for his sixth touchdown of the game.
“He is amazing,” Muraco said. “He has a great attitude, he’s a great kid, and he’s everything you want in a player. He’s not a selfish kid. He doesn’t pout if he doesn’t get the ball. He just goes out and plays football.”
Dedeaux finished the game with 446 yards and seven scores. He also intercepted Milton twice in the second half, including a spectacular one-handed grab in the end zone that saved a touchdown.
“I came out in the second half with a different attitude,” Dedeaux said. “I knew I was doing my thing on offense but I needed to do my thing on defense, so that’s what I did.”
Dedeaux wasn’t the only Patriot running wild on the Trojans defense. Junior running back Chad Tebay carried the ball 25 times for 204 yards and a touchdown.
All in all, Liberty gouged Mililani for 503 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.
“Our game plan really was to grind them and to get three yards and a cloud of dust and slow the game down,” Muraco said. “But our offensive line opened up some huge holes for those guys.”
The Patriots offensive line helped its runners average nearly 10 yards per carry, and it didn’t go unnoticed by Dedeaux.
“They were great, the best I’ve ever seen,” Dedeaux said.
In a game where defense was scarce, Liberty came up with big plays when it needed them most. The Patriots forced four turnovers in the second half, including back-to-back fumble recoveries in the game’s final moments.
“That is what won the game really,” Muraco said. “We needed some stops and they came up big.”
Muraco called it the biggest win in the school’s history, and it isn’t hard to see why. The win shows that Bishop Gorman isn’t the only team in Nevada that can compete with the top teams in the nation.
“Three or four years ago, we started scheduling really tough teams to kind of get the kids battle tested for the playoffs and for eventually taking a run at Bishop Gorman,” Muraco said. “To finally win this one, it’s everything to us.”