It was a season of firsts for the Liberty High football team.
First win against Bishop Gorman — who can forget that night, right? It was followed by the Patriots’ first win in Reno. And now today the crowning achievement: first state championship.
Liberty led wire-to-wire against Centennial in the class 4A title game at Sam Boyd Stadium, using a pair of touchdown runs from Edward Gastelum and Zyrus Fiaseu in a 50-7 victory.
Earlier in the week, Centennial coach Dustin Forshee said his team needed to play the perfect game to have an opportunity to win. Almost immediately the Bulldogs weren’t perfect, as they allowed a long touchdown on the third play of the game, and threw four interceptions — the first of which was on their first offensive play.
The elusive title for Liberty comes in their fourth state championship game appearance since 2012. The other three games, of course, came against Gorman, an opponent nobody beat over the last 10 years. That streak ended three weeks ago when Liberty beat them in the Desert Regional title game, a victory you could argue was the de facto state game.
Check back later for more coverage.
Liberty up 35 points after three quarters of state game
The Liberty High football team is starting to pull away from Centennial in the state championship game.
Edward Gastelum had his second touchdown of the game midway through third quarter, and on Centennial's first play of the ensuing possession, Lehi Ausage stepped in front of a pass for an interception. He easily returned it about 25 yards for a touchdown and 42-7 lead.
Liberty ahead of Centennial at halftime, 28-7
The Centennial High football team brought the ball to inside the Liberty 5-yard line seconds before halftime in today's large-school state championship game.
But the Bulldogs let time expire without scoring, and trail Liberty 28-7 at intermission.
Zyrus Fiaseu had a pair of touchdown runs and more than 100 rushing yards in the first half for Liberty, who is one half away from the program's first state championship. It has lost in the finals three times since 2012.
Centennial's points came on a long touchdown run from Jordan Smith.
Liberty up 14 points on Centennial late in first half
Edward Gastelum and Zyrus Fiaseu have had first-half touchdown runs for the Liberty High football team, extending the Patriots lead against Centennial to 21-7 in the large-school high school football state championship game.
Jordan Smith had an 80-yard touchdown run for Centennial with about nine minutes to play in the second-quarter, but Liberty scored less than a minute later in extending its lead back to double digits. Daniel Britt had a long run to bring the ball inside Centennial's 5-yard line, and Gastelum scored on a 3-yard scamper.
In the first quarter, Fiaseu broke through for a 65-yard touchdown run.
Liberty scores three plays into state championship game with Centennial
There's been plenty of action to start the large-school state high school football championship game between Liberty and Centennial.
Liberty scored first on the third play of the game when Daniel Britt connected with Corey Hebert for a long touchdown and 6-0 Patriots lead less than one minute into the action. The extra point was blocked
Then, on Centennial's first possession, Donte Bowers stepped in front of a screen pass for the Liberty interception. Liberty, though, couldn't capitalize as Britt fumbled on the next play to give the ball right back to Centennial.
Game day: Liberty one win away from elusive state championship
Coach Rich Muraco sensed in October this Liberty High football team would be special.
The Patriots only gave up 17 points in five Southeast League games, winning each contest by the mercy rule of the running clock. In past seasons, as the Patriots won multiple regional titles in succession, they seemed to always run into a team or two along they way that presented a challenge.
Not in 2019.
The closest result was 38-0 against Foothill. And against Green Valley, the team that took second in the Southeast, Liberty rolled to a 59-0 win.
“We never took care of the division like that,” Muraco said. “We were taking care of teams right away. The games were over before halftime.”
The Las Vegas-area opponents in Liberty’s way, though, didn’t have a defense as accomplished as that of Centennial, the Patriots' opponent in today’s class 4A state championship game. Centennial surrenders less than two touchdowns a game.
Centennial is the surprise participant in the title clash, going from a one-win season in 2017 to one victory away from the state’s biggest prize. This is the Centennial program’s first state game appearance in 20 years of existence; this is Liberty's fourth championship game since 2012. The Patriots lost the other three, each to Bishop Gorman.
“We have a ton of respect for Liberty,” Centennial coach Dustin Forshee said. “They have a great culture over there. Liberty has been there before, but once the game starts, it’s just another high school game.”
Liberty, unlike in its past state games against Gorman, is considered the favorite. And while Centennial has just one defeat on the season and has played its best over the past two weeks, Forshee said it will take a perfect game to keep the score close.
“We need to do to Liberty what they did to Gorman,” Forshee said, referencing Liberty’s upset of Gorman in the Desert Regional championship game to break Gorman’s string of 10 straight state titles. “We feel good about it, but we know we need to be perfect.”
Kickoff is at 12:10 p.m. at Sam Boyd Stadium. Tickets are $12 for adults, $6 for students. The game will be streamed here.
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