With his team coming off a brutal non-conference schedule, Liberty football coach Rich Muraco feared a letdown factor might come into play Friday night.
That fear lingered through the first 10 minutes before the host Patriots erupted on the way to a 49-13 victory over Green Valley in the Southeast League opener for both teams.
Kenyon Oblad completed 22 of 33 passes for 332 yards and six touchdowns to lead Liberty, which took control with four touchdowns in the second quarter.
Muraco said his squad needed a strong rebound after last week’s 49-32 loss to nationally ranked Centennial (California).
“We lost to a tough team last week,” he said. “We didn’t play our best, but our kids got right back on Monday and started working. We just knew that if we played the way we were capable of playing, we were going to be a tough team to beat.”
The Patriots (4-1, 1-0 Southeast) did not look so tough in the opening minutes, failing to get a first down in their first possession and fumbling at midfield in the second.
But Oblad hit Ethan Dedeaux with TD passes of 21 and 31 yards in the final four minutes of the first quarter to get Liberty rolling.
A 36-yard TD pass from Oblad to Chad Tebay early in the second quarter made it 21-0.
The Gators (3-2, 0-1) answered with a strong drive, moving 73 yards in 12 plays and scoring on a 17-yard pass from Kalyja Waialae to Logan Beard midway through the quarter.
But the Patriots got the points back four plays later when Bryson Delacruz ran one up the middle for a 28-yard score. Acohido and Marquez Powell each caught TD passes in the final 1:08 of the half — thanks in part to a successful onside kick by Liberty — and the Patriots led 42-7 at halftime.
Oblad said his success came as the result of his desire to erase his team’s only loss from his memory.
“We went to (California) last week,” he said. “And coming off that loss, we didn’t want to lose again. We prepared very well this week, and we were ready for this game.”
Multiple Liberty penalties aided the Gators’ first second-half drive, and they cut their deficit to 42-13 with a 2-yard TD plunge by C.J. Araujo late in the third quarter.
But the Patriots’ defense was stingy the rest of the way, and the offense provided some insurance with another TD pass from Oblad to Acohido early in the fourth quarter.
Muraco said he was just glad to see his team get its first league win of the season.
“Nothing we’ve done up until now really means anything,” he said. “This is what really matters.”
Acohido finished with 101 yards on six receptions to help Liberty, and Dedeaux added 85 yards on five receptions.
Waialae completed 19 of 24 passes for 142 yards to lead Green Valley.