Liberty running back Spencer Wilson didn’t think much of his first-half performance on Friday night.
The senior wasted little time making up for it.
Wilson ripped off a 90-yard touchdown run on the first offensive play of the second half to break a 7-7 tie, and the Patriots went on to beat visiting Basic 28-16 in the Sunrise Region championship game.
“I just thought I wasn’t doing that good in the first half,” Wilson said. “So I had to make up for that. And I know that our team pushed harder in the second half.”
Liberty (10-2) plays Bishop Gorman in a Division I state semifinal at 1:05 p.m. Saturday at Rancho.
The Patriots managed just 44 rushing yards in the first half, but Wilson more than doubled that on his first carry of the third quarter. He blew straight ahead through a huge hole and went untouched for the TD and a 14-7 Liberty lead. The Patriots led the rest of the way.
“I kind of challenged the kids and their toughness,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “I felt like Basic was stoning us on the offensive line and we had to come out and make a statement.”
Wilson added a 27-yard TD run with 6:18 to go in the third quarter to push the lead to 21-7. He again went straight ahead through a big hole, then avoided a tackler near the 15 and bounced outside for the score.
Wilson finished with 207 yards on 13 carries. He had 173 yards in the second half.
“The more carries he gets, the more reps he gets in practice, the better he gets,” Muraco said of Wilson. “He’s surprisingly fast with his breakaway speed, and he’s a physical, one cut and go downhill kind of runner. I’m really proud of him and how he’s progressed this season.”
Liberty appeared on the way to icing the game, but the team’s second turnover inside its own 10 nearly let Basic (6-6) back in the game.
The Patriots led 21-10 when quarterback Kenyon Oblad couldn’t handle a high snap. Basic’s Saul Arizaga pounced on the loose ball at the Liberty 9.
Aeneas McAllister was sacked for a 16-yard loss on first down, but the Wolves still had a chance. McAllister scrambled for 11 yards on third down, and a late hit penalty on Liberty made it fourth-and-goal from the 7.
McAllister dropped back and looked for star receiver Josh Villaros, but Curtis Washington was able to break up the pass to get Liberty the ball back with 5:27 to play.
“Our defense has been doing that all year,” Muraco said. “Unfortunately, with some young kids on offense, we do tend to make some mistakes, and we’ve put our defense in some bad situations this year. And they’ve done a good job in red-zone defense, and that was big.”
Liberty freshman Jake Dedeaux returned an interception 66 yards to make it 28-10 with 1:12 to play.
Basic’s Dallon Ellett fielded the ensuing kick and handed it to Villaros, who streaked 84 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown with 59 seconds left for the final margin.
Basic scored first, taking advantage of Liberty’s first turnover. Oblad looked to swing the ball to Ethan Dedeaux, but his pass was behind the receiver and was ruled a lateral.
Kendahl Blakely recovered at the 9, and McAllister scored on a 1-yard run to make it 7-0 with 7:46 to go in the first half.
Liberty answered late in the half when Oblad hit Bryan Roland with a screen pass.
Roland sidestepped a tackler and went down the left sideline for a touchdown to tie the game with 1:16 to go in the second quarter.
The Patriots now have won five consecutive Sunrise titles.
“Every one is great; every one is special,” Muraco said of the championships. “We don’t take anything for granted. This is a great win for us. We said we wanted to make history, we wanted to get five.”
Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4587. Follow him on Twitter: @DamonSeiters.