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Defense, special teams lead Liberty in rout of Silverado

Liberty’s offense hasn’t played particularly well this football season, but the Patriots have certainly made up for it in other areas.

Nothing was different Thursday night, as the Patriots used 30 points off special teams and defense to thwart Silverado, 51-6 on homecoming.

“I was happy with the way the defense and special teams played,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “And the offense was good enough for us. It isn’t what we had last year. The defense struggled last year and that’s how the offense is now. We just kind of play well enough and not put our defense in bad situations.”

Preston Pavlica blocked a Silverado punt that flew to the back of the end zone for a safety with 8 minutes, 38 seconds left in the opening quarter to make it 2-0. That was only the beginning for the Patriots (6-2, 2-1 Northeast League).

On the ensuing free kick, Ethan Dedeaux took it 65 yards for a score and a 9-0 lead.

Spencer Wilson added an 87-yard run at the beginning of the second quarter to extend Liberty’s lead to 16-0. The Skyhawks answered on a 26-yard TD pass from Mitchell Ballard to Deyon McKinney with 8:25 left in the second. Silverado (3-4, 1-1) would not score again.

Right before halftime, Dedeaux took a slant from Kenyon Oblad 54 yards for a score with five seconds remaining. Just seconds later, Pavlica intercepted a Hail Mary pass and returned it 85 yards for a touchdown to give the Patriots a 30-6 lead at the break.

Mario Garcia also returned an interception 48 yards for a score in the second half for Liberty.

“Last year, our defense kind of struggled,” Muraco said. “We had a lot of young kids — nine underclassmen — and they took their lumps. This year, they all came back and I knew that was going to be the strength of our team. I’m just really proud of them. They fly to the ball and play really well as a unit.”

Dedeaux finished with two receptions for 83 yards and two touchdowns for the Patriots.

“He’s far and away my most dynamic offensive player,” Muraco said. “As good as he is on offense, I think he’s even better on defense. He’s a special player. He’s just one of those kids that knows how to make plays.”.

Wilson carried the ball eight times for 132 yards, and Ethan Tuilagi had seven carries for 74 yards for Liberty, which got two catches and 58 yards from Rudy Bukassa. Teammate Bryan Roland added a TD on a 96-yard kickoff return to open the third quarter.

Silverado’s McKinney, who split time at running back and quarterback, finished 3 of 12 for 41 yards and added 88 yards on 20 carries. Matthew French had two receptions for 23 yards, and Ballard was 1 of 7 for 26 yards and a TD for the Skyhawks, who got an interception from Devin Matelski.

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