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Patriots use dominant defense to top Wolves

After Friday’s season opener at Basic, the jury may still be out on just how potent Liberty’s offense will be this season.

The verdict for the Patriots’ defense, however, was unanimous: dominant.

The Patriots smothered Basic’s inside run game and harassed the quarterback into tossing three interceptions — two of which were returned for touchdowns — leading Liberty to a 42-12 victory.

The Patriots forced four Basic turnovers and held the Wolves to 121 yards of offense, none of which was a shock to head coach Rich Muraco.

“They did what I expected them to do,” Muraco said. “The defense is the strength of our team, with nine starters returning. They play fast and aggressive. “

That led to the defense turning Basic miscues into points.

Linebacker Calvin Tubbs disrupted a screen pass by the Wolves, intercepting the ball and sprinting 39 yards for a touchdown to push Liberty’s lead to 21-0 with eight seconds left in the first quarter.

“Execution is the biggest thing they preach to us,” Tubbs said. “Just execute, and pay attention to detail, and good things will come to us.”

Dhamany Whittle also got into the act in the third quarter, intercepting a pass and racing 22 yards to the end zone to make it 35-6.

“We’ve been practicing hard all week, and we just came out and played like we really expected to,” Whittle said.

Muraco also gave credit to his defensive front — led by nose tackles Josh Bernard-Lee and John Groom that limited the Wolves ability to run the ball inside.

Basic finished with 73 rushing yards on 34 carries.

“They both get a little angry because they want a little more playing time,” Muraco said. “But we rotate eight guys on our D-line to try to keep them fresh. And they are all really good.”

Meanwhile, Liberty’s offense was mostly effective behind freshman quarterback Kenyon Oblad, who threw for 197 yards and a score. But the Patriots did turn the ball over four times, including two interceptions by Oblad.

“It’s a learning experience. But I think he did really well for his first high school game,” Muraco said. “The more reps he gets, the game will slow down for him. But he’s a special kid. It will just take a little bit of time to get that rhythm down.”

Sophomre receiver Ethan Dedeaux was Oblad’s favorite target, as he hauled in five catches for 131 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter.

Ethan Tuilagi led the Patriots on the ground, scoring on a 44-yard run up the middle in the second quarter. He finished with 82 yards on eight carries.

Bryan Roland also had a 59-yard punt return for a score for Liberty.

The one downside in the game for the Patriots was the 18 penalties they were ticketed for, totaling 170 yards.

“Hopefully they take away from this game that we need to play with more discipline,” Muraco said. “That’s something that could really come back and haunt us.”

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