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Top-ranked Mater Dei strikes early, often against Liberty — PHOTOS

Liberty knew what it was getting into Friday night in facing the nation’s top-ranked high school football team.

Mater Dei didn’t disappoint, at least not the contingent of fans that followed the Monarchs from Southern California.

By halftime, the only question was the margin, with Raleek Brown and Elijah Brown taking over in what became a 49-7 victory in the Polynesian Football Classic at Bishop Gorman.

Mater Dei (2-0), ranked No. 1 by USA Today, led the Patriots 42-7 at halftime.

“They kicked our butt all night,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “We had plenty of mistakes, for sure, but they were the better team tonight, clearly. We’ve got to fix things. It’s a good thing it’s not playoffs right now, so we’ve got time to fix the things we need to fix.”

Senior Raleek Brown, who has committed to Oklahoma, rushed for three touchdowns and had 60 yards on five carries in the first half. Sophomore quarterback Elijah Brown was just as efficient, completing 14 of 15 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for a TD in the half.

Both Browns played the third quarter before calling it a night, with Raleek Brown adding his fourth touchdown. He finished with 87 yards on nine carries, and Elijah Brown was 15 of 16 for 213 yards.

Liberty (3-1) wasn’t expected to win, but the fact that the Patriots were so dismantled is a surprise given they won the Class 4A state championship in 2019.

Their performance against Mater Dei looked nothing like a title team. The Patriots couldn’t block the Monarchs’ defensive front that helped record six sacks. They were befuddled on defense by Mater Dei’s balanced attack and badly lost the special-teams battle, with short punts making life too easy for the visitors.

The insult of insults: The second half was played with a running clock.

“That’s the hope,” Muraco said when asked if his team can learn from the lopsided loss. “I think sometimes you learn more from a loss than you do from beating teams even though you beat a team and you play bad. I’d rather sometimes wake them up and see that when you play a good team and you don’t execute, then this is the kind of thing that can happen to you.”

Liberty did show some early fight. After allowing a 27-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter to Raleek Brown, Liberty answered immediately. Jayden Maiava completed a 34-yard pass to Landon Bell to set up Champ Kapanui’s 5-yard touchdown run two plays later off a pitch left to even the score.

Mater Dei came right back. Elijah Brown set up a touchdown with a 32-yard strike to C.J. Williams to the 9. Raleek Brown scored on the next play, diving for the left pylon for a 14-7 lead with 1:10 left in the first quarter.

It was a lead the Monarchs would not relinquish.

They took control with 7:47 left in the second quarter when Elijah Brown found an open Williams in the end zone for a 21-7 lead.

That turned out to be just the beginning of the onslaught. Mater Dei scored three touchdowns in the final 4:29 of the half, largely because of a shanked punt that gave the Monarchs possession at the Liberty 3-yard line and a failed attempt by the Patriots to convert a fourth-and-1 at their 30.

Mater Dei certainly didn’t need help but got it anyway.

The result was a final score that Liberty will have to quickly forget.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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