The Liberty High football team on Sept. 7 will host IMG Academy of Florida, which finished 2017 ranked No. 2 in the nation, in the Polynesian Football Classic.
When Bishop Gorman won its three mythical national titles from 2014-16, IMG finished ranked in the top five. IMG, which has a 46-3 record since 2013, takes elite players from throughout the country and strictly plays against national opponents.
“They are one of the best teams in the country every year,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “It will be a tremendous challenge for us, obviously.”
It’s the second year for the classic, which debuted last season at Sam Boyd Stadium. The event will expand in games in 2018 and shift to Liberty, where on Sept. 8 Faith Lutheran will play Chandler of Arizona, the reigning large-school class state champs, in one of the event’s marquee games.
Other games on Sept. 8 include: Farrington of Hawaii vs. Carson of Southern California, and 5A Utah champion Bingham vs. Mountain Pointe of Arizona.
Faith Lutheran is establishing a Polynesian footprint with its coaching staff and roster, making accepting an invitation to the classic an easy decision for coach Vernon Fox. It’s one of four games against notable out-of-state competition for the up-and-coming local program.
Faith Lutheran in 2018 will also host Valor Christian of Colorado and Bakersfield Christian (coached by Darren Carr, older brother of Raiders QB Derek), and travel into California to take on JSerra.
“Every year we look to push the envelope and compete on a national level,” Fox said. “Those games will put us in the position we want to be in as one of the top teams in the state.”
Tickets for the classic will go on sale June 1 at Liberty — a school with a distinct Polynesian flair. An “Aloha Festival” in the parking lot will be part of the event.
“It’s very cool that we get to host at Liberty. It will be good for our community,” Muraco said.