Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017 | 12:36 a.m.
The Liberty High football team’s initial two possessions of the season on Saturday night produced a similar result: three plays, incomplete passes and a punt.
So, on the third possession against visiting Saguaro of Arizona, the Patriots brought in the unlikeliest of offensive weapons in defensive lineman Crishaun Lappin.
With the 6-foot, 245-pound Lappin lined up at fullback, the Patriots switched from their hurry-up, four-or-five wide receiver attack to the power running game. They finally were able to move the ball, gaining first down after first down, and eventually building a four touchdown advantage before halftime in a 51-20 victory.
Lappin, who had 70 tackles and 11 sacks last season and is arguably Liberty’s best defender, thrived in creating space for tailback Kishon Pitts to run through.
Pitts scored on a 35-yard run on the first play of the second quarter, and the Liberty defense — with Lappin consistently getting into the backfield — scored three touchdowns to turn what appeared to be a competitive game through the first quarter into a blowout.
“That set the tone. It was like, ‘We are here and we are going to bring it like that on every play,’” Lappin said. “They weren’t ready for that.”
Saguaro entered with a No. 33 national ranking and 26-game winning streak. By time the end of the fourth quarter, the game was played by the mercy rule of the running clock. It was the third straight season where Liberty has defeated an respectable out-of-state opponent.
“We want to challenge ourselves and challenge our program,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “To come away with a win like this against a program like that is tremendous for us. It gives our kids confidence. It solidifies our place that we belong in the national rankings.”
Austin Fiaseu and Davion Ware had short interception returns for a touchdown for Liberty early in the second quarter for a 21-0 lead. After a scoreless first quarter, the Patriots had three touchdowns less than four minutes into the second quarter.
After starting slow, four-year starting quarterback Kenyon Oblad also flourished in the second quarter with seven straight completions and a pair of touchdown passes. His 56-yard scoring straight to Marquez Powell in the closing seconds of the first half gave Liberty a 34-6 lead at halftime.
Oblad, a three-star recruit who passed for 3,700 yards last season, will always be the opposing defense’s primary focus. But tonight Liberty showed it should be able to run the ball, too.
“(Saguaro had) a lot of guys that played both ways,” Muraco said. “We knew we were going to be able to pound they a little bit. We wore them down and took their spirit away.”
Liberty continued the defensive pressure in the second half, including a 55-yard fumble return for a touchdown by freshman Zyrus Fiaseu, Austin’s younger brother. Both have scholarship offers from UNLV — two of nine Liberty players with offers.
That’s an important figure for Muraco, who has carefully molded his program from being the best in the Sunrise Region to cracking the national top-25 last season.
Next week, the Patriots will again be in the spotlight when they travel to Florida to face American Heritage, another notable program where the Las Vegas team can continue proving it belongs on the big stage.