Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015 | 1:40 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer engage in their weekly high school football discussion highlighted by a debate whether or not Centennial's season has been disappointing so far.
Jamaal Evans looked more like the lead of a post-apocalyptic blockbuster movie than a high school quarterback for much of Friday night.
Liberty, the Sun’s No. 2-ranked team, used a savage defensive effort on the road to eradicate No. 3-ranked Centennial 27-7.
“I harped on the defense all week to come out and make a statement,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “I thought they did a great job tonight.”
Offense carried the Patriots to what Muraco called the biggest win in school history in their last game — a 76-53 victory over Mililani (Hawaii). The defense had to hold against Centennial while Liberty shook off some offensive rust out of a bye week.
They came through in a big way, sacking Evans nine times and gang-tackling the Bulldogs’ ball carriers on the majority of plays. Centennial managed only a nudge above three yards per play.
“It was a really good feeling because defense should win games,” Liberty senior linebacker Nick Moniz said. “Our defense really pushed it to come back from the last game.”
Liberty nearly posted its first shutout in two years. The Patriots had stopped the Bulldogs on their only scoring drive in the third quarter but picked up a personal-foul call for leaping over the snapper on a missed field-goal attempt to prolong the possession.
Senior Rhamondre Stevenson, who had 20 carries for 104 yards in Centennial’s lone offensive bright spot, went for a 7-yard touchdown on the next play to cut the score to 14-7.
Liberty’s offense, which was held scoreless for the first 16 minutes, awoke with a power-run game to respond. After focusing on passing with sophomore quarterback Kenyon Oblad getting the bulk of his 267 yards in the first half, the Patriots switched gears.
Junior Ethan Dedeaux, who scored the Patriots’ first touchdown on a 63-yard reception, picked up 45 yards on the ground on successive plays after Stevenson’s score but went down with an ankle injury at the 1-yard line. Senior fullback Alofania Tevaseu punched in the short touchdown from there.
“We feel like we can do a lot of different things offensively and keep the power game in our back pocket for when we need it,” Muraco said.
The offense, which committed four turnovers on the night, got back to putting the defense in perilous positions the next time Liberty had the ball. Centennial junior James Johnson recovered his second fumble of the night in Liberty territory.
The Bulldogs had a fourth-and-2 minutes later, but Patriots defensive captain and senior linebacker Kaimi Batoon burst through the line and blew up a play in the backfield.
“My mentality was just don’t give up,” Batoon said. “Headhunt and go for the ball.”
Johnson added an interception to his career night on Liberty’s next drive, but the defense emerged again. On a third-and-short, Moniz fired through the line untouched and cemented Evans into the ground.
“I don’t even know what happened,” Moniz said. “I can’t remember half the stuff that happened afterwards because I was going crazy.”
Directly afterwards, senior cornerback Bryan Roland notched his second pass break-up of the night to all but lock up the victory. The Patriots’ secondary was staunch when necessary, though that wasn’t often.
In addition to Batoon and Moniz, senior Calvin Tubbs and junior Dariyen Sample were also in on multiple sacks.
“We have the athletes outside to where against most teams we can go man and blitz an extra guy or two,” Muraco said. “That’s what we did tonight.”
The depth of athletes showed on the other side of the ball, too. Liberty had eight players register a rushing attempt and seven catch at least one pass.
Junior Darion Acohido was the most-targeted receiver with six catches for 84 yards. Junior Chad Tebay provided the ground force, going for 54 yards and two touchdowns on 13 rushes.
The eventual offensive production was a boon for the Patriots, but barely needed with the destruction left in the defense’s wake.
“Sometimes we have bad days but it’s how you come back from them,” Batoon said. “That’s what we try to believe on our defense. We had to bring it back after we gave up a few scores two weeks ago, and tonight, we brought it back and picked it up.”