Liberty wasn’t about to let this one slip away. Zyrus Fiaseu made sure of that.
The freshman safety made a key fourth-quarter interception that he returned for a touchdown Saturday to squash a comeback attempt by Alta (Utah) and ensure the Patriots would leave Sam Boyd Stadium with a 28-7 victory.
“To me, it changed the game with my brothers on the field blocking for me,” Fiaseu said. “Octavion (Bell) had the block for me so I could come down the sideline and score.”
His pick could not have come at a better time. Liberty (2-1) built a 22-0 lead only to see Alta score, make a defensive stop and cross midfield. Down 22-7, the Hawks were 30 yards from a touchdown that would made the Liberty sideline squirm.
Then Fiaseu jumped the route and ran 70 yards to a game-sealing score.
“He’s amazing,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “He’s such a phenomenal football player as a freshman. It’s exciting that we get to have him for four years.”
Fiaseu has been a revelation for a Patriots’ defense eager to keep up with the team’s potent offense. Saturday’s touchdown was his second defensive score of the season after returning a fumble for a score in the season opener against Saguaro (Arizona).
“Two touchdowns in the first three games? It feels amazing,” Fiaseu said.
On the other side of the ball, Kenyon Oblad was his usual methodical self. The senior quarterback completed 28 of 43 passes for 343 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. His first five passes went to different receivers, and the first score belonged to Kyle Beaudry, his only catch. Oblad hit seven Patriots for completions.
“He was more loose in person than we saw on the film,” Alta coach Alema Teo said. “A good quarterback like that, you can’t give him time to sit in the pocket and pick you apart.”
But Oblad did look one particular way more than others. Senior wideout Marquez Powell had his first monster game as Oblad’s go-to guy, hauling in nine passes for 120 yards and the game’s second touchdown.
“He’s one of the best receivers in the state,” Oblad said. “It’s an unfair advantage.”
After breaking halftime with a 14-0 lead, Liberty turned to clock-control mode. After handing running back Kishon Pitts the ball just seven times in the first two quarters, Pitts carried the ball 13 times in the second half for a game total of 89 yards and the touchdown that put Liberty up 22-0 after a 2-point conversion.
Alta finally scored with 10:06 remaining, then stopped Liberty and started downfield. The Hawks looked primed to score before Fiaseu ended the threat.
“When you play a quality opponent like Alta and come away with a win, it’s great,” Muraco said.