Liberty’s Germie Bernard made a one-handed catch in stride for a 72-yard touchdown, returned a punt for a 65-yard TD, and scrambled around the right for a 2-point conversion.
Teammate Jayden Maiava passed for 218 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for a 35-yard score.
All that occurred Friday in the first half.
That was all Liberty needed to assert control and send a message entering the high school football playoffs with a 49-7 victory at Desert Pines that the Patriots have every intention of defending their 2019 state title.
Liberty (8-1, 4-0) clinched the No. 1 seed in the Class 5A Mountain League.
“We stressed all week that we wanted to win this game in dominating fashion and to win a division championship and start getting ready for the playoffs,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “I felt like this was our best game we’ve played all year. We’re peaking at the right time.”
The Patriots took a 42-0 lead with 1:36 left in the second quarter, prompting the referee to immediately call for a running clock rather than wait until the second half.
Liberty played with a sense of urgency as its eyes Bishop Gorman in a potential playoff showdown.
As for Desert Pines, the Jaguars (5-3, 2-2) are the third seed in the Mountain.
“We’ve got seven seniors; the rest of the team are freshmen and sophomores,” Desert Pines coach Tico Rodriguez said. “This is a defending state champion. We would’ve had to play a perfect game to compete with them, and we didn’t and those are the results.”
Desert Pines had few answers for Maiava, who completed 13 0f 20 passes for 263 yards and four touchdowns. COVID-19 sidelined Maiava earlier in the season, but the UNLV commit is playing his best football.
“It felt weird to be sitting in the stands and looking at the field not being able to play out there,” Maiava said. “It was heartbreaking at first, but I got through it.”
Bernard, who has committed to Washington, made the night’s top catch and showed his versatility even beyond the punt return and 2-point conversion. He played quarterback in mop-up duty, completing 4 of 6 passes for 32 yards.
“He’s the best player in the state, in my opinion,” Muraco said. “He can be an all-state safety if he wanted to be. He can be a running back, quarterback, receiver, whatever he wants to be.”