Patriots set coach at ease, cruise past Grizzlies

Liberty coach Rich Muraco was concerned about Saturday’s home opener against Spring Valley.

First, he was worried about a letdown following last week’s tough loss at Palo Verde. Second, Muraco thought his team could be looking ahead to next week’s showdown with the Patriots’ rival, Silverado.

Turns out, there was no need.

No. 5 Liberty turned in a complete performance, posting four scoring plays of 50 yards or more, in a 42-10 victory over the Grizzlies.

Anthony Morgan’s interception on the game’s first play set the tone, and by the time quarterback Kai Nacua threw his second touchdown pass with 1:55 remaining, the Patriots (1-1) put together their best showing of the young season.

“We talked about the Palo game all off-season as the game to make a statement,” Muraco said. “After that tough game, I thought we might look ahead, because Silverado is a huge game. We played well tonight, and showed we can move the ball more than four or five yards at a time.”

After the game, Muraco addressed the penalities to his team first and foremost. Liberty was whistled 15 times for 147 yards.

It was the lone negative to a complete game for Liberty. The Patriots gained 256 yards on the ground, while quarterback Kai Nacua added a pair of long TD passes.

Morgan started the big-play scoring for Liberty, with a 50-yard run at the 6:03 mark of the first quarter. Following a Spring Valley field goal, Ty Byrd gave Liberty a 14-3 lead with a four-yard run.

Liberty gained a huge boost of momentum 21 seconds before halftime, when Nacua hit Jeremy Lagasca on a 56-yard pass play to put the Patriots on top, 21-3.

Lagasca’s 46-yard kickoff return to start the second half helped Liberty push the lead to 28-3 on Teu Tai’s 7-yard run.

The Patriots added a pair of fourth-quarter scores — a school-record 95-yard run by Niko Kapeli and Nacua’s 61-yard pass play to Jared Tuilagi.

Spring Valley (1-1), which managed only 120 total yards, managed a 12-yard run by Austin Wallace late in the third quarter.