The Patriots can count step one as complete.
Liberty erupted for 21-point second-quarter points — including 14 off of turnovers — then held off a second-half Skyhawks rally for a 21-18 victory over eighth-ranked Silverado.
Patriots coach Rich Muraco said he told his team this week that it had a chance to make the playoffs based on winning its next three games.
Teu Tai had two touchdown runs in the second quarter for the Patriots (4-3, 2-2 Southeast).
“It was going good because of my line. They were doing really good out there,” said Tai, who finished with 52 yards rushing. “I got in the end zone tonight because of them.”
The line also came through to help Liberty convert on six third downs, including three that were more than 10 yards and kept scoring drives alive.
Turnovers also were a key for Liberty.
With the game tied at 7, Samson Toalei recovered a fumble at the Skyhawks 42, and four plays later Tai scored on a 6-yard run to give the Patriots a 14-7 lead.
On Silverado’s next drive, Michael Reveles scooped up a Skyhawks fumble a returned it 35 yards to the Silverado 15. Five plays later Tai scored on a 1-yard run to push the lead to 21-7.
“The last few weeks we have been just shooting ourselves in the foot with turnovers,” Muraco said. “I was a little worried once we fumbled and they scored. But once the kids calmed down, they played really well.”
Liberty’s fumble two plays into the second half gave Silverado (5-2, 1-2) new life. Cory Iwata recovered the loose ball for the Skyhawks, and four plays later Brandon Romano kicked a 41-yard field goal that cut it to 21-10.
After Liberty’s ensuing drive stalled, Teran Madu-Jules took a handoff on the next play and zipped 53 yards for a touchdown for the Skyhawks. Trent Tipton then tossed a pass to Matt Holen for a 2-point conversion, and suddenly Liberty’s lead was down to three points.
But Liberty’s defense held up. The Patriots came up with an interception to stop one drive, then saw Romano miss just short on a potential game-tying 61-yard field goal with 5:56 left.
Liberty ran out the clock to clinch the win.
“Our defense doesn’t get much credit. He (Madu-Jules) is the first back to get over 100 yards on us this year,” Muraco said. “Our defense usually holds teams under two touchdowns. They played well tonight.”
Madu-Jules finished with 149 yards rushing on 21 carries and two touchdowns, but the rest of Silverado’s offense was held to 55 yards, including 11 passing yards.
Now the Patriots will try to achieve step two.
“This was a really good win,” Tai said. “This was one of our steps to get in the playoffs. Now we have to focus on Del Sol.”
Spring Valley 35, Bonanza 28 — At Bonanza, Taj Allen had four touchdowns, including a decisive 55-yard scoring run with 7:45 left, as the Grizzlies (5-3, 5-2 Southwest) beat the Bengals (3-5, 3-4).
Just like Allen, Bonanza running back Dasean Martin had three touchdown runs and a TD reception.
Allen scored on Spring Valley’s opening drive with a 44-yard run. Martin responded with a 37-yard run on Bonanza’s next possesion.
Allen caught a 33-yard touchdown pass from Anton Stallworth midway through the second quarter, and Martin had a 74-yard TD burst on the next play.
Allen’s 4-yard TD run put the Grizzlies up 21-14 at the half.
Kevin Bodda was the only other player with a touchdown, scoring when he recovered a blocked punt in the end zone in the third quarter to give Spring Valley a 28-14 lead.
Martin ran in a 12-yarder in the third quarter and caught a 14-yard pass from Sterling Sprau in the fourth to tie the game at 28.
Allen finished with 211 rushing yards, and Martin had 181.
Palo Verde led 14-7 at halftime but scored three touchdowns in a four-minute span to blow the game open. Chappell Thomas scored on runs of 26 and 46 yards, and defensive lineman Doug Stultz returned an interception 21 yards for another score.
After rushing for just 43 yards in the first half, Palo Verde gained 302 on the ground in the second and kept the ball for more than 15 minutes.
Tyrone Blake had rushing touchdowns of 9, 15 and 9 yards. Thomas finished with 152 yards on 18 carries, and Brandon Wright added 99 yards on 14 carries for the Panthers.
On the Panthers’ first possession, Palo Verde (7-1, 5-1 Northwest) marched 42 yards in five plays with Blake scoring on a 9-yard run for a 7-0 lead. The Aggies answered with their best drive of the night — a 14-play, 80-yard march that ended with Christian Rodriguez’s 25-yard run to tie the game.
Wright responded by taking the ensuing kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown.
Rodriguez led Arbor View (4-4, 3-4) with 85 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries.
Wharton, Valley’s quarterback, finished with 147 yards on 27 carries.
Parker Riggin passed for 267 yards and four touchdowns to lead Foothill. Riggin had three TD passes in the first quarter, connecting with Kyle Keplinger on a 27-yard TD pass, hitting Darius Gates with an 86-yard TD pass and hooking up with Mikie Charlton on a 20-yard TD.
Coronado scored 20 straight points to cut the lead to five, but Riggin added a 26-yard touchdown pass to Tyrel Garner, who had five catches for 106 yards, late in the fourth quarter to seal it.
Coronado’s Kentavius Hudson rushed for 63 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries, and freshman Cory Mucino added five catches for 74 yards. Ryan Newton passed for 256 yards, including a 21-yard TD strike to Mucino.
Eldorado 33, Chaparral 6 — At Eldorado, senior Daytron Green ran for 197 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Sundevils (1-6, 1-2 Northeast) past the Cowboys (0-7, 0-4) in the Cleat Game.
Green carried 31 times, scoring on runs of 7, 3, and 14 yards to key a rivalry win that gives Eldorado possession of Merlin Olsen’s cleat.
Junior JaQuorrey Williams completed 5 of 7 passes for 50 yards and also ran for 44 yards and scores of 39 yards and 1 yard.
The Eldorado defense forced five first-half turnovers, including four interceptions. Joseph Ortega picked off two passes, and linebacker Tyler Nelson had an interception and recovered a fumble.
Chaparral’s Zachary Luciano completed 8 of 19 passes for 102 yards, including a 38-yard touchdown to Jacob Gallen with 1:21 left.
Faith Lutheran 27, Shadow Ridge 13 — At Faith Lutheran, junior Don Pearson tossed two touchdown passes to younger brother Brad and returned an interception for a touchdown as the Crusaders (1-6, 1-5 Northwest) broke an eight-game losing streak and collected their first Class 4A win by beating the Mustangs (1-6, 1-5).
Don Pearson staked Faith Lutheran to a 14-0 first-quarter lead with a 27-yard interception return and a 14-yard pass to Brad Pearson. The duo connected for another 14-yard scoring pass in the second quarter.
Joe Portaro added field goals of 33 and 34 yards for the Crusaders, who managed just 112 yards of total offense but won for the first time since Oct. 17, 2008.
Michael Tootle had scoring runs of 3 and 2 yards for Shadow Ridge, which had only 163 yards of offense.
Durango 60, Sierra Vista 20 — At Durango, the Trailblazers (6-2, 5-1 Southwest) racked up 378 yards rushing while routing the Mountain Lions (1-7, 1-5).
Durango’s Julio Mora rushed for 219 yards and four touchdowns, and Michael Mehling added 161 total yards and three touchdowns.
Sierra Vista’s Dontrell Hall returned a kickoff 93 yards for a score, and Ryan Phung’s 3-yard run made it 14-14 after the first quarter.
Mora had TD runs of 5 and 7 yards to push Durango’s lead to 27-14 at halftime, and the Trailblazers put the game away in the second half.
Mehling scored on runs of 5 and 15 yards and had a 58-yard TD reception from Chase Roberts.
Cimarron (5-2, 4-2 Northwest) scored on its opening drive with a 10-yard touchdown run by Zach Barbara and extended the lead on James Poole’s 32-yard TD just 2:30 later.
Mojave (2-5, 1-5) trimmed the deficit to eight on a 4-yard TD pass from Clarence Prophet to Robert Jameson. But the Spartans responded with 44 consecutive points.
Poole scored on touchdown runs of 32, 87 and 11 yards, finishing with 174 yards on eight carries, and added a 35-yard punt return for a score late in the third quarter. Barbara had TD runs of 10, 35 and 41 yards, finishing with 119 yards on five attempts, and Stephen Nixon added 100 yards rushing and a touchdown.
Gorman’s Shaquille Powell hauled in a 73-yard touchdown pass from Jarrett Solomon and also scored on a 13-yard run.
The Gaels’ defense held the Warriors to 27 yards of total offense.
Western’s lone score came on an 86-yard kickoff return by Brian Mikol.
Mitchell had TD runs of 14 and 13 yards to help Desert Oasis take a 21-0 lead. Brennen Stott added a 42-yard TD pass to Colin Maestas.
The Diamondbacks got a 7-yard TD run by Roycen Shepherd and a 60-yard scoring run from Peter Okafo in the second half.
Reed’s run capped a nine-play, 90-yard drive that began late in the third quarter.
Reed led all rushers with 206 yards on 28 carries.
With less than three minutes to play, the Bulldogs recovered a fumble on their 26-yard line. After an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty gave Centennial a first down at the 41, quarterback Cody Clark and Christoper Henderson hooked up for a 42-yard pass to the Dragons 13 with 1:39 to play.
But two false start penalties stalled the Bulldogs’ final drive, and a last-second pass from Clark to Taj Cole from the 8 was dropped in the end zone.
Virgin Valley had a chance to win the game in the final minute but lost a fumble at the Clark 15.
Derrick West, who had six carries for 123 yards, scored on a 33-yard run in the second quarter and a 78-yard run in the third as the Chargers battled back from a 15-0 deficit.
Clark ran only 30 offensive plays — all of them rushes — and lost three fumbles but gained 278 yards.
Virgin Valley built its lead on a 30-yard pass from punter Victor Ruvalcaba to Humberto Urias and a 1-yard run by Zach Horlacher in the first quarter. The Bulldogs ran 63 offensive plays for 240 yards.