Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018 | 12:25 a.m.
Liberty’s coaching staff has tried to limit the snaps of star sophomore Zyrus Fiaseu as he deals with an injury to his left hand early in the season.
There are times, however, when the Patriots must turn to the member of last year’s MaxPreps Freshman All-American team. Mired in a tight game Friday night at Desert Pines, one of those moments emerged.
Fiaseu checked in at running back at the beginning of a series late in the third quarter for one of his first carries in a while. He promptly exploded for a 90-yard touchdown to put the Patriots up two scores for the first time in the game, his casted hand in tow.
“I will play with anything,” Fiaseu said. “I will 100 percent do whatever I can to help my team out.”
Liberty annihilated Desert Pines the rest of the night en route to a 33-6 victory behind Fiaseu, who finished with 12 carries for 189 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, Fiaseu’s long run didn’t only change the game from a competitive standpoint.
Frustrations boiled over on the ensuing kickoff, as a Desert Pines player held down one of his opponents for several seconds after the whistle and sparked a brawl. A night that was supposed to showcase two of Southern Nevada’s top teams, airing live on Twitter via Adidas’ Friday Night Stripes series, was spoiled.
Adidas supplied the entire rosters of both teams with all new gear and a Vegas Golden Knights’ jersey, and in return, got a fight that featured multiple players from both teams leaving the bench. An adult in a Desert Pines shirt was also restrained by police officers, as coaches from both teams attempted to break up the fracas.
After a delay that lasted around five minutes, officials allowed the game to continue but only after at least four ejections.
“Football is an emotional game, and you want your kids to play on that edge between playing real nasty but playing clean,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “Sometimes, they’re high school kids and emotions get the best of them and that line gets a little blurred.”
There was no postgame handshake line, as players on Desert Pines’ sideline departed the field before their teammates ran their final play. Liberty had to receive a police escort back to its locker room.
Desert Pines was never the same after the fight. The Jaguars gained only one first down in the final 20 minutes, after finding some success in the short passing game late in the second quarter into the early part of the third quarter.
Their one score came on a 46-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Devin McGee after senior quarterback Troy Williamson scrambled out of the pocket.
Williamson was under constant pressure all night. Liberty’s defense had eight sacks, including three by senior defensive end Luke Toomalatai and two by senior UNLV-committed linebacker Kyle Beaudry.
A quarterback hurry also precipitated an interception from junior cornerback Gabriel Nickels a play before Fiaseu’s 90-yard run.
“I was proud of the way they came out today and really put the pressure on the quarterback to where he didn’t have time to read,” Muraco said. “All their plays were him scrambling around and making a big play on his own.”
Desert Pines’ running game was similarly ineffective, as it was held to 45 non-sack yards with Liberty’s Derrick Nua holding down the middle of the line of scrimmage. Liberty also won the battle up front on offense, as it ran on 14 of its first 15 plays and reached the red zone on each of its first two possessions before Desert Pines came up with fourth-down stops.
The Patriots finally finished a drive early in the second quarter when sophomore running back Ezra Tomhoon scored on a 7-yard touchdown run. Tomhoon had 10 carries for 42 yards before leaving the game with a foot injury, paving the way for Fiaseu to pick up more carries.
“The kid is a natural freak,” Muraco said of Fiaseu.