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Liberty coasts in playoff opener against Valley

Liberty was the picture of efficiency Friday against visiting Valley in the quarterfinal round of the Class 4A Sunrise Region playoffs.

The No. 2 Patriots used that efficiency for one thing: utter domination.

Liberty quarterback Kenyon Oblad threw three touchdown passes and Darion Acohido returned a pair of punts for scores as the Patriots stormed to a 54-0 victory over the Vikings.

Liberty coach Rich Muraco said he was pleased to see his squad open the playoffs in the right mindset.

“Really it’s the focus of the kids. They understand it’s playoff time,” said Muraco. “They understand, even though we may have been favored to win, they still came in with the right kind of focus, and practiced the right way all week. I’m really happy with the performance.”

Literally the first time the Patriots (9-1) got their hands on the ball, they took the lead for good behind Acohido.

Liberty’s defense forced a three-and-out on Valley’s first possession of the game, and on the ensuing punt, Acohido raced 55 yards to give the Patriots a 7-0 lead.

Acohido added a second touchdown in the second quarter from 60 yards out, too, to give Liberty a 34-0 lead. He said it was the first time he had ever returned two punts for scores in the same game.

“It was just great blocking and we had a great scheme,” said Acohido. “We got kind of lackadaisical at the end of the season. But we know the mindset had to change for the playoffs. We started to play more disciplined and we practiced like that.”

Oblad was the epitome of efficiency for the Patriots against the Vikings, as the Patriots quarterback threw only three passes — all for first-half touchdowns.

Oblad threw a 61-yard touchdown to Terris Hamilton, and added a 59-yard scoring toss to Marquez Powell in the first quarter.

He found Ethan Dedeaux in the end zone from a 29 yards out that made it 40-0 with 8:40 left in the second quarter, effectively ending his night.

Valley, meanwhile, only mustered 58 yards of offense. Noah Espinoza had a 67-yard interception return for the Patriots, cashing in on one of four turnovers committed by Valley (2-8).

“We played a lot cleaner than we have,” Muraco said. “Sometimes when you play rivals during the season, emotions can get the most of you and you make mistakes. But this week, they were all business.”

Acohido said Liberty is looking forward to a rematch with Southeast Division rival Silverado, who the Patriots defeated 58-13 during the regular season.

“It will be a good match-up,” Acohido said. “We didn’t get to play a couple of their good players last time, so we will be excited for the challenge. We are up for it.”

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