Ray Brewer and Case Keefer discuss each of the six local high school football teams still left competing as the playoffs wind down.
As Liberty High running back Kishon Pitts tumbled into the endzone to score a game-icing touchdown to give the Patriots their eighth straight Sunrise Region championship Friday night, he was swarmed by teammates.
Through the huddle of teammates embracing a heavy-hearted Pitts, a smile could be seen stretching across his face. It’s one of the first smiles of the week for Pitts, who lost his father in an incident with police in which his mother was also shot last Saturday in Henderson.
Pitts missed all practices this week. Grieving the loss of one parent while the other recovers at the hospital is an unbelievable burden for a teenager, but he wanted to play in Friday night’s 32-10 victory against Green Valley.
“This week has been hard,” Pitts said. “It’s just been hard, to be honest. I wanted to come out here and get my mind off things and play with my brothers because they are my second family. They helped me a lot through my struggles.”
Pitts carried the ball 13 times for 29 yards, but scored from five yards out in the fourth quarter to seal Liberty’s 32-10 win to clinch another region championship.
“It was a great feeling,” Pitts said. “That was just the best moment.”
The senior hadn’t found much success running throughout the game, but there was no other back who coach Rich Muraco would rather give it to in the situation.
“It was great,” Muraco said. “You can’t always dictate who scores the touchdowns, but we really wanted him to get that one at the end when we got close. It was so inspirational. For a young man to lose his father and all of the emotion that goes with that. It says a lot about his character that he wanted to come out here and represent for his dad. I’m so proud of him.”
The score gave Liberty an insurmountable lead with less than six minutes to play, finally creating separation against the Gators in a hard fought game. Green Valley out-gained Liberty 151-115 in the first half and only trailed, 14-10 at halftime.
“I felt like the offense was going alright but defensively we were letting them dink and dunk and eat up the clock,” Muraco said. “It was a good game plan by them and they also had some drives extended by penalties.”
Liberty’s defense took control in the second half, limiting Green Valley to only 52 yards and intercepting quarterback A.J. Barrilla twice.
“You make adjustments to what they’re doing to you and try to counter that, and my defensive coaches did a great job with that and it showed in the second half,” Muraco said.
Patriots’ quarterback Kenyon Oblad was hindered through the air by a tough Green Valley secondary and sharp winds that blew the ball all over the field. Oblad completed only 13-of-26 passes, but Nevada’s all-time leader in career passing yards made up for it with his feet.
Oblad weaved through the Gators’ defense for a 15-yard gain on third and long, then punched it in with a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
“He can run,” Muraco said. “We haven’t allowed him to run much in his career because we never really had a backup behind him. His freshman, sophomore and junior years he was a little on the frail side, but he’s put a lot of weight this year, almost 25 pounds of muscle, and he can run the ball, so that gives us more options on offense.”
The win sets up a state semifinal matchup against Bishop Gorman, who has ended Liberty’s season the last three seasons, including the last two in the state championship game. Last year, they lost 84-8.
“Everything that we do and that we’ve tried to do over the last eight years has been to try to narrow the gap with Gorman,” Muraco said. “Whether it’s in the state semifinals or in the championship game we have to come out and play a lot better than we did tonight. We will see what happens.”
It may have been just another one of eight-straight Sunrise titles for the Patriots, but for Pitts it was more. A night with his second family to momentarily distract his mind from reality.
After the game Muraco called Pitts to the front of the team huddle and announced the team would be holding a fundraiser this Tuesday at Liberty with all proceeds going to Pitts’ family. Still healing from surgery, his mother was discharged from University Medical Center Friday night as well.
“For them to do this all for me means a lot to me and my family,” Pitts said, “and I love them for that.”