Friday, Sept. 7, 2018 | 11:37 p.m.
This was a chance for the Liberty High football team to prove itself. Needless to say, the outcome wasn’t what Liberty officials envisioned when they agreed to host the nation’s No. 1-ranked team.
But even though the Patriots were soundly defeated 35-0 tonight in the Polynesian Classic by IMG Academy of Florida, there were plenty of positives for the respected Las Vegas program.
When you consider the Patriots were without their intended starting quarterback because of injury, and their top defensive back also didn’t play, hanging tough with IMG’s team of college-ready recruits — even if Liberty was dominated at times — is commendable.
Liberty, for a few drives, was able to move the ball. Liberty, on a few plays, was able to slow down the IMG offense.
But there was one thing Liberty couldn’t overcome — itself.
Liberty sure made things easy for IMG early because of miscues in the punting game. IMG’s initial two touchdowns in the first quarter came after botched plays by the Liberty special teams, including once where Liberty downed the ball on its 1-yard line.
“It is kind of demoralizing because you know you are playing the top-ranked team in the country, or one of the top teams in the country, and you have to play a perfect game or near-perfect game,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said.
Liberty amassed about 100 yards for the game, including around 50 hard-fought rushing yards by UNLV commit Kyle Beaudry. Still, the Patriots never seriously threatened to score.
Liberty has a bye next week; it next plays Sept. 21 at Desert Pines. Its record sits at 1-2 on the season, all contests against quality out-of-the area teams.
“That is why I like to play these kind of games,” Muraco said. “Against a lesser team you can make those kinds of mistakes and still rally to win. You spot a team like that 14 points in the first quarter because of special teams and it’s tough to come back from.”