Stephen R. Sylvanie
Friday, Sept. 16, 2016 | 12:10 a.m.
Thursday night’s game between Liberty and Desert Pines was billed as a contest to decide the second best football team in Nevada.
By the end, Liberty made it crystal clear that not only are the Patriots that team — it isn’t even close.
Junior quarterback Kenyon Oblad completed 25-of-38 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns as the Patriots crushed Desert Pines 41-14.
“We needed to show everybody that we are the top team in the state,” Oblad said. “We needed to beat them and send a message that they couldn’t compete with us and they weren’t on our level.”
The Jaguars hung with Liberty early on, and even held a 7-6 lead into the second quarter.
The Patriots faced a fourth and 10 at the Desert Pines' 18 yard line, and Liberty coach Rich Muraco showed faith in Oblad by going for it.
Oblad lofted a perfect pass to Darion Acohido in the corner for the touchdown, and the Patriots never looked back.
“If I’m in trouble (Acohido) is my safety net,” Oblad said. “He’s a great receiver. He runs perfect routes and he knows what the defense is doing. He knows where to be on every play and when you have someone like that you know he’s going to be open every play.”
Liberty scored 31 unanswered points to blow the game wide open.
Acohido led the Patriots with eight catches for 102 yards.
“He’s a stud,” Muraco said. “I wish more Division-I schools would take notice of what a special player he is. He’s shifty. He’s got great hands. He’s a leader. He’s got a 4.6 GPA. He’s everything you want in a player and he had a great game again.”
Oblad did spread the ball around, with eight different receivers catching a pass — including Marquez Powell, who had 86 receiving yards and a touchdown.
“It’s what we expect from (Oblad),” Muraco said. “He’s a really smart kid, has a great arm and he reads defenses well. If we can protect him he can pick teams apart.”
Oblad was never sacked and rarely touched as Liberty controlled the trenches on both sides of the ball.
The Patriots' defense shut down one of the most high-powered offenses in the state, holding Desert Pines 31 points below its season average.
“We had a good game plan,” Muraco said. “We knew that with (quarterback Marckell) Grayson not being in they were going to have to rely on the run and we just sold out to stop it. “
All-City running back Isaiah Morris, who was averaging 11.2 yards per carry entering the game, was completely bottled up by the Patriots front-seven.
“It was key. That was the game plan all week was to keep him corralled and stop him. We worked on a lot of tackling this week and that’s what it was about,” said Liberty defensive lineman Crishaun Lappin.
Morris scored on a 39-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, but his other 11 carries went for a total of 19 yards.
“He’s playing against a team with a lot of D-I guys, too,” Muraco said. “No offense to a lot of the other teams in Division 3A, but we can match them athlete for athlete.”
Backup quarterback Randall Grimes struggled with only 99 passing yards, no touchdowns and an interception, but did lead the Jaguars with 98 rushing yards.
After knocking off the No. 1 team in Texas and the No. 3 team in Nevada, Liberty gets no reprieve. The Patriots will head to California to take on the fourth-ranked team in the state — Centennial-Corona next Friday.
“This will be the biggest game of the season,” Lappin said. “It will be the biggest game of my career.”
Centennial-Corona beat Liberty 60-42 in 2013, but the Patriots have improved drastically as a program since.
“It’s a big game but we have to treat it like any other game,” Oblad said. “We have to have a great week of practice and then go out there and play a perfect game.”