Las Vegas Sun

September 27, 2021

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high school football:

Desert Pines, Liberty coaches accept blame for fight; forfeits handed down

Both high school football programs are embarrassed. Both coaches are remorseful. Both are accepting responsibility.

A fight in the second half of last Friday’s Liberty-Desert Pines game will result in each program forfeiting two games, coaches confirmed Tuesday night. Liberty’s win against Desert Pines will be changed to a double forfeit and each team will also forfeit their next game.

For Desert Pines, that’s Friday contest against Canyon Springs; for Liberty it is Oct. 5 against Chaparral.

It was the third fight in the last two seasons in the Las Vegas area, including earlier this season between Basic and Clark. With each fight came a similar penalty from officials.

“I have already had a talk with the kids about learning how to control their emotions as men,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “That is what football is supposed to teach. It teaches you life lessons, it teaches you to control your emotions so you don’t lose your job, don’t end up committing domestic violence or wind up in jail.”

Desert Pines and Liberty are two of Nevada’s best teams, with Liberty winning the past eight regional championships and Desert Pines the two-time defending 3A champions. The upcoming forfeited game will be a league contest, meaning their road to another playoff run will become more difficult.

“We’ll use this to become a smarter team, a better team,” Desert Pines coach Tico Rodriguez said.

Unlike the Basic-Clark game, the Desert Pines-Liberty game continued after the altercation. That gave coaches some hope a forfeit wouldn’t be issued.

“The NIAA followed the letter of the law and we broke it. Unfortunately, we now have to pay the consequences,” Muraco said.

Rodriguez credited coaches from both sides for limiting the damage. Both coaches also said they prepare for these types of situations and warn players of the consequences.

“In my 18 years at Desert Pines we have never had a situation like this,” Rodriguez said. “You think you are prepared and it happens in a New York minute.”

In a nine-game schedule, having to forfeit one game is more than 10 percent of the season. That also hurts the players at Canyon Springs and Chaparral, who will also lose a game. (They could wind up playing each other.)

“That’s a huge penalty, 11 percent of the season,” Muraco said. “I feel bad for those kids at Chap and Canyon Springs. They don’t get a game now.”

Ray Brewer can be reached at 702-990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at