Liberty starts slow, finds groove late against Shadow Ridge

Despite outgaining Shadow Ridge 267-27 in yardage in the first half Friday, No. 2 Liberty appeared unsettled.

The Patriots appeared even more vulnerable after the Mustangs’ Malik Jackson opened the second half with a 92-yard kickoff return for a score to trim the Liberty lead to 24-20.

But Liberty freshman quarterback Kenyon Oblad teamed with sophomore receiver Ethan Dedeaux to show some much-needed poise for the Patriots, and the duo sparked a 27-point outburst on the way to a 58-26 victory.

Oblad, who finished with 358 yards and four touchdowns on 21 of 29 passing, calmly led the Patriots (2-0) on a 9-play, 75-yard drive after Jackson’s kick return, capping it with a 13-yard TD pass to Dedeaux to push the lead to 31-20.

Oblad hit all five of his passes for 102 yards on the drive, which included overcoming 30 yards of penalties. He deferred credit for the offense’s success.

“I feel like our line did a great job,” said Oblad, who also threw scoring passes of 34, 21 and 34 yards in the game. “But we have great receivers. All I have to do is get it to them and they make the plays.”

Dedeaux was one of those playmakers, as he not only capped the Patriots first drive with a TD catch, but hauled in a 34-yard touchdown reception on the next drive. He finished the game with five catches for 83 yards.

“We needed to run the ball a lot (tonight),” Dedeaux said. “Then the corners came up (to the line). And we passed the ball outside, and it was wide open.”

Dedeaux added more points in the third-quarter after the ensuing Mustangs drive ended in a punt. Dedeaux zigzagged 48 yards on the return for his third visit to the end zone in the quarter, increasing the Patriots’ advantage to 44-20 with 1 minute, 51 seconds left.

“I saw that outside defender,” Dedeaux said. “I was thinking should I go inside or outside, so I sped outside to the sidelines, and the blockers were there to help. Then I cut it inside for the score.”

Darlon Acohido paced the Patriots with 10 receptions for 160 yards, while Brad Vilora had two receptions for 55 yards and two scores. Darius Alston led Liberty’s ground attack with 14 carries for 62 yards and a score.

The Patriots needed third-quarter heroics from Oblad and Dedeaux before getting a comfortable margin on the scoreboard. Despite rolling up 563 yards on offense and limiting the Mustangs to just 57 yards, Liberty showed a pair of problems: special teams and penalties.

Shadow Ridge (0-1) returned three kickoffs for touchdowns in the game. De-Zohn Rogers had a 75-yard kickoff return for touchdown in the first quarter, then added a 68-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter, to go along with Jackson’s 92-yarder to open the second half.

Though they came out on top, the Patriots were plagued with penalties, racking up 18 flags for 190 yards.

“We need to be more disciplined,” Oblad said. “And we need to stop talking and getting personal foul penalties. It’s all about being more disciplined.”

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