Friday, Aug. 24, 2018 | 11:29 p.m.
Liberty made a concerted effort to fine-tune its special teams coming into the regular season.
Unlike previous years, the Patriots allotted at least 10 minutes at every practice to their special teams units. The extra attention paid off in Liberty’s opener, as the Patriots’ special teams contributed 16 points in a 22-12 win at Saguaro High in Scottsdale, Ariz.
“Especially first game of the year, you usually always worry about your special teams,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “But we put a lot of time into it.”
The Fiaseu brothers combined to score the first points of the season for Liberty. Senior Austin Fiaseu blocked a punt that sophomore Zyrus Fiaseu scooped and returned for a touchdown.
The Patriots never trailed for the rest of the game, as the Sabercats’ special teams proved less reliable. Saguaro scored a touchdown shortly after Fiaseu’s return but missed the extra point to make the score 7-6.
Liberty upped the lead to 10-6 with a 35-yard field goal from junior kicker Dillon Fedor, and then 12-6 by pinning Saguaro at the 1-yard line where it intentionally gave up a fourth-down safety. Faced with the same opportunity later at their own 1-yard line, Fedor was able to get a punt off for the Patriots.
“That was huge,” Muraco said. “It was only 30 yards so it wasn’t an amazing punt, but our defense was able to come up with a turnover … Dillon had a great game tonight.”
Fedor added the final points of the game with another field goal in the fourth quarter. Liberty’s only offensive score came out of halftime when sophomore running back Ezra Tomhoon punched in a 1-yard score to cap a 21-play drive.
Junior defensive backs Donte Bowers and Lehi Ausage each had interceptions, assisted by constant pressure from the likes of senior edge rushers Luke Toomalatai and Derick Agatonu.
“It was a hard-fought, tough game against a great program,” Muraco said.