Experience often makes the ultimate difference in close games, so Liberty coach Rich Muraco knew he had the advantage in the fourth quarter Friday.
Muraco’s second-ranked Patriots capped an eight-play, 58-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Kai Nacua midway through the quarter to rally past visiting Canyon Springs, 23-20.
Nacua finished with three touchdowns while gaining 133 yards on 16 carries.
“We have a lot of kids that have a lot of big-game experience,” Muraco said. “They didn’t get nervous.”
There was no reason for the Patriots to be nervous for most of the game, as they built a 13-0 lead courtesy of a 3-yard run by Niko Kapeli in the first quarter and a 65-yarder by Nacua late in the second.
But the seventh-ranked Pioneers (2-2) made it interesting when Liberty (3-1) elected not to run out the clock in the final minute of the first half, forcing a fumble and recovering at the Patriots’ 3-yard line.
Donnel Pumphrey quickly scored to cut the deficit to 13-6 at halftime.
“We should have just taken a knee there,” Muraco said. “But I was worried about a safety. .”
After Austin Fitzgerald gave Liberty a 16-6 lead with a 22-yard field goal late in the third quarter, the Pioneers awoke.
Pumphrey busted a 72-yard TD run on the next possession, and gave Canyon Springs a 20-16 lead with a 43-yard punt return with 11:35 to play.
That set up Liberty’s winning drive, which gained momentum when Nacua faked a handoff on first down and ran 30 yards to the Canyon Springs 28.
Nacua finally scored to put the Patriots ahead 23-20 with 5:01 remaining, and the Pioneers’ final drive resulted in little but a short punt that sealed their fate.
Kapeli finished with 138 yards on 34 carries to spark Liberty, and the Patriots’ defense held the Pioneers to 184 yards.
Pumphrey rushed 16 times for 105 yards for Canyon Springs.
Las Vegas 55, Foothill 40 — At Las Vegas High, Andrew Moreland rushed for five touchdowns and gained 194 of his 218 yards in the second half as the No. 8 Wildcats (3-1) rallied to defeat the Falcons (1-3).
Las Vegas trailed by 34-27 after three quarters before exploding for three straight touchdowns.
Trevor Swenson hit Joshua Mayfield for a tying 49-yard score, then Moreland broke the game open in a span of 1:44 with touchdown runs of 42 and 40 yards, giving the Wildcats a 14-point lead.
Foothill quarterback Drew Doxtator, who completed 36 of 60 passes for 448 yards, got the Falcons within 48-40 with his fifth TD pass, a 15-yarder to Andre Gonzalez with 3:16 left.
Las Vegas put the game away on Elias Miller’s 6-yard TD run.
Moreland also ran for TDs of 1, 78, and 13 yards as Las Vegas gained 378 yards on the ground. Miller added 84 yards on 14 carries.
For Foothill, Gonzalez also had TD catches of 30 and 18 yards and had 91 yards receiving. Jordan Primo made 11 catches for 147 yards, and Bryce Broadwell caught TD passes of 7 and 24 yards among his nine catches for 104.
Ricky Dixon led the Falcons rushing attack with 161 yards on 30 carries.
— Sam Leeper
Bishop Gorman 70, Legacy 0 — At Gorman, Jarrett Solomon completed all 12 of his first-half passes, compiling 272 yards and four touchdowns to power the No. 1-ranked Gaels (4-1, 1-0 Southwest) over the Longhorns (2-3, 0-1).
Ryan Smith made TD receptions of 50 and 20 yards, Justin Sweet scored on a 17-yard run and a 60-yard screen pass, and quarterback Randall Cunningham scored on runs of 35 and 22 yards, finishing with 96 yards rushing.
Robert Stanley made two sacks for Gorman, which held Legacy to 20 yards in the first half. The Gaels finished with a 573-80 yardage edge.
— Tim Guesman
Coronado 48, Rancho 7 — At Coronado, Kevin Lucero passed for 248 yards and four touchdowns and also ran for two scores to lift the No. 10 Cougars (3-1) over the Rams (0-4).
After a 75-yard run by Ezekiel Collins put Rancho on the board first, Coronado responded with a 75-yard pass from Lucero to Derrick Keller and never looked back.
Keller compiled 125 yards rushing, including a 5-yard touchdown, and 123 yards receiving.
Jackson Cofer, Kjell Henness and Brock Taeubel had receiving touchdowns for the Cougars.
— Jamie Bichelman
Centennial 42, Bonanza 10 — At Centennial, Coby Newton rushed for 127 yards, including touchdowns of 23 and 2 yards, and the fifth-ranked Bulldogs (4-1, 1-0 Southwest) rolled over the Bengals (1-4, 0-1).
Andrew Romoff scored on a 50-yard run in the first quarter and Lantz Worthington added a 69-yard TD run in the third. Brandt Honda also scored on a 46-yard punt return for Centennial.
Jayveon Taylor returned a kickoff 96 yards for Bonanza, and Austin Rowe kicked a 42-yard field goal.
— Mike Sloan
Palo Verde 50, Shadow Ridge 14 — At Palo Verde, Ryan Beaulieu rushed, received and returned an interception for a touchdown and Parker Rost tossed three TD passes to lead the sixth-ranked Panthers (3-3, 1-0) over the Mustangs (0-5, 0-1) in the Northwest League opener.
Beaulieu opened the scoring midway through the second quarter on an 11-yard run, returned an interception 22 yards for a score three plays later and added a 47-yard swing pass from Rost for a score on the following Palo Verde drive.
Shadow Ridge kept the game close at the halftime behind two TD passes from Bakari Smith, but the Panthers scored 29 straight points to close out the game.
Lee Griggs scored on a 4-yard run in the third quarter and finished with 137 yards on 21 carries.
— Adam Berchin
Durango 54, Sierra Vista 27 — At Durango, Marcus Sanders-Williams ran for 259 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Trailblazers (3-2, 1-0 Northwest) past the Lions (1-4, 0-1 Northwest).
Sanders-Williams had four touchdowns on his first six carries, on runs of 30, 39, 75 and 77 yards. Arie McQuaig also finished with 140 yards and two scores on 11 carries for Durango.
Durango quarterback Brett Neighbors added 103 yards on the ground, including a 70-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Sierra Vista didn’t score its first offensive touchdown until the closing minutes of the game when Anthony Harvanek connected with Chris Reed for a 12-yard score.
Maliek Broady led all Lions rushers with 68 yards on nine carries, and Octavius Payne added 42 yards for Sierra Vista.
— Steven Slivka
Silverado 40, Del Sol 14 — At Silverado, Alex Cater rushed for 274 yards and four touchdowns, powering the Skyhawks (3-1) past the Dragons (1-3).
Cater’s TDs covered 3, 7, 13 and 15 yards. Marquise Edward threw scoring passes to Alek Aragon (15 yards) and Austin Hunt (65).
Del Sol’s touchdowns came on kickoff returns by Cameron Lamont (90 yards) and Tyrone Rouse (55). Lamont finished with 146 all-purpose yards.
— Brian Danise
Valley 36, Eldorado 13 — At Valley, Tyrone Prewitt threw for three touchdowns, sparking the Vikings (1-3) over the Sundevils (1-3) for their first win.
Eric Burrell sparked Valley, supplying two receptions for 34 yards, making six tackles, blocking a punt, recording two sacks, and recovering a fumble.
Valley scored 22 points in the fourth quarter to push its lead to 36-0. Kennedy Williams caught a 23-yard TD pass from Prewitt and rushed 4 yards for another score, finishing with 64 yards on 10 carries.
Dillard Davis ran for an 11-yard score and also caught a 2-point conversion pass.
Eldorado’s Justin Brown rushed for 127 yards on 21 carries and made four catches for 48 yards. Joshua Brown completed 7 of 24 passes for 86 yards.
The Sundevils scored on Ta’Varea Shelton’s fumble recovery and Jordan Bowden’s 9-yard run.
— Zac Alexander
Faith Lutheran 29, Clark 13 — At Clark, Greg Benson passed for 266 yards, throwing for two of his three scores in the final 14:21 as the Crusaders (3-3, 1-1 I-A Sunset) pulled away from the Chargers (0-6, 0-2).
Vinny DeGeorge caught a 36-yard TD pass in the first quarter, Sean Bischel caught a 14-yarder in the third and Anthony Pryatel-Farmer’s 12-yarder in the fourth capped the scoring.
Ricco Gonzales rushed for 51 yards, including a 5-yard TD, for Faith Lutheran, and Trent Dolby kicked a 40-yard field goal.
Clark, seeking its first win, stayed close for most of three quarters, getting a 65-yard TD run by Jordan Jenkins and a 17-yard TD pass from Anthony Bermudez to Juan Aguilar. A tying 2-point attempt after the latter score prevented the Chargers from tying the game.
Jenkins led all rushers with 110 yards on 11 carries, and Bermudez was 9 of 14 passing for 95 yards.
— Neil Grepke
Desert Pines 48, Sunrise Mountain 7 — At Sunrise Mountain, Travis Nofoa was 7-for-7 passing for 243 yards and five touchdowns, and the Jaguars (3-3, 1-1 I-A Sunrise) bolted to a 28-0 first-quarter lead to defeat the Miners (2-4, 0-2).
Nofoa threw TD passes of 76 and 12 yards to Donavan Wright, 45 to SaDarius Clayton, 6 to Tim Hough and 85 to Malik Davis. Don. Iquan Corsey returned an interception 46 yards for a score in the first quarter.
A’Keem Ross scored on a 9-yard run for Sunrise Mountain with 49 seconds remaining.
— Jesse Vineyard
Boulder City 15, Virgin Valley 12 — At Mesquite, Chris Nilsen kicked a 25-yard field goal as time expired to give the Eagles (6-0, 2-0 Division I-A Sunrise) the victory over the Bulldogs (4-2, 1-1).
Boulder City’s Xavier Steel rushed for 109 yards on 12 carries, including a 70-yard TD to pull the Eagles to within 12-6 midway through the third quarter.
Boulder City’s Joe Miller hit Cole Reynolds with a 74-yard TD pass to tie it at 12 with 2:33 to play in the third quarter.
D.J. Koopman gained 84 yards on 16 carries for Boulder City.
Virgin Valley’s Garrett Leavitt passed for 161 yards, including a 43-yard TD to Tyson Teerlink. Dee Bowler rushed for 65 yards and a TD on 17 carries.
Moapa Valley 57, Chaparral 12 — At Overton, Conner Mortensen rushed for 197 yards and four touchdowns on 13 carries as the Pirates (6-1, 2-0 Division I-A Sunrise) routed the Cowboys (3-3, 0-2).
Sean McConnell added 157 yards and two TDs on seven carries for Moapa Valley, which had 460 yards rushing. Jake Repp added 54 yards and two TDs on six carries for the Pirates.
Jerome Williamson passed for 133 yards and a TD to lead Chaparral.
Cheyenne 46, Pahrump Valley 6 — At Pahrump, Dylan Power recorded two sacks and caught a touchdown pass to lead the Desert Shields (4-2, 2-0 I-A Sunset) over the Trojans (1-5, 1-1).
Myloe Lewis added two rushing touchdowns for Cheyenne.
Calvary Chapel 32, The Meadows 19 — At The Meadows, senior A.J. Davis gained 168 yards on 14 carries, including touchdowns of 70 and 65 yards, to spark the Lions (3-2, 3-1 Division III Southern) over the Mustangs (0-6, 0-5).
Riley Clark passed for 183 yards and three TDs, including a 66-yarder to sophomore Ocean Lee in the second quarter. Clark had three catches for 81 yards.
Chris Basilio caught an 18-yard TD from Clark and Seth Kreilick caught a 4-yard TD.
Chase Marrs keyed The Meadows with a 3-yard scoring run in the third quarter and a 40-yard TD reception from Jacob Gleason in the fourth. Marrs gained 53 yards on 17 carries.
Spring Mountain 78, Indian Springs 19 — At Indian Springs, six players scored touchdowns to lead the Eagles (4-1, 2-1 Division IV Southern) past the Thunderbirds (1-4, 1-2).