Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 | 11:59 p.m.
Turnovers helped spoil Liberty High’s undefeated start to the season and prevent its rise further up the national polls.
Three interceptions and a lost fumble in the first half doomed Liberty, ranked No. 22 in the country by USA Today this week, to a 49-32 road loss at No. 12 Centennial of Corona, Calif. The defeat meant the Patriots split the national portion of their schedule after beating Westlake (Texas) 21-14 three weeks ago.
“When we schedule these games, we want to show the kids you’ve got to play four really good quarters to beat great teams,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “We were able to do that in Texas. We didn’t tonight.”
Liberty dug itself into a 35-6 deficit early in the second quarter when Centennial scored points off a trio of turnovers. The Patriots could never contain Huskies running back Miles Reed, who rushed for well over 200 yards with four touchdowns.
“We’ve played better but I don’t want to take anything away from them,” Muraco said. “They outplayed us. We couldn’t stop them in the first half, and they took us out there.”
The giveaways were especially frustrating for Liberty because it was having success moving the ball. The Patriots leaned on wide receiver Ethan Dedeaux and running back Bryan Delacruz, with the duo leading the way to the team racking up nearly 300 yards in the first half.
They got within the 10-yard line for a chance to cut the halftime score to as low as 35-20, but then junior quarterback Kenyon Oblad threw his final interception.
“If we could have scored, it would have put some pressure on them,” Muraco said. “But they had it pretty comfortable with that lead in the second half.”
The Patriots came out of the locker room and pieced together an 80-yard drive that Dedeaux capped with a one-yard touchdown to make the score 35-18. They then forced a three-and-out, but saw their ensuing drive stall around midfield.
Centennial scored a couple plays into its next possession to practically put the game out of reach. Liberty was able to make the score respectable with touchdowns from running backs Treyveon Campbell and Chance Faitau in the final five minutes.
“They could have folded and given up, and they didn’t,” Muraco said. “They fought for four quarters, so despite all the mistakes, I learned a lot about the team today.”