Liberty trailed early Thursday night and was about to throw away a second red-zone opportunity.
Kenyon Oblad made sure that didn’t happen.
On fourth-and-10, the junior quarterback dropped a perfect pass over the Desert Pines defense to an open Marquez Powell in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown pass that put the Patriots ahead, and they rolled to a 41-14 home victory over the Jaguars.
“The sky’s the limit for Kenyon,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “I envision him as a major Division I quarterback with 20-plus offers when it’s all said and done. He’s really starting to come into his own, with all the starts he has under his belt. The game’s slowing down for him. He’s smart. He makes the right reads.”
Oblad had thrown an early interception, and penalties stifled another drive that ended in a missed field goal.
The second-ranked Patriots drove to the Desert Pines 18, but two power running plays netted no yards and an incomplete pass brought up fourth down. That was when Oblad spotted Powell and led him perfectly between two Jaguars defenders for the score.
Oblad added another touchdown pass on the next drive, again with his team having stumbled in the red zone. The second-ranked Patriots (3-0) drove to the Desert Pines 19, but a penalty wiped out a TD pass from Oblad to Darion Acohido, and a false start left Liberty facing third-and-18 from the Jaguars 29.
Oblad dropped back and lofted a pass to Acohido inside the 5, and the senior receiver trotted into the end zone to make the score 20-7 with 8:39 left in the second quarter.
Liberty added a 5-yard TD run by Ethan Dedeaux with 1:21 left in the half, and the 2-point conversion made the score 28-7 at halftime. The fourth-ranked Jaguars (3-1) never threatened after that.
Oblad completed 25 of 37 passes for 262 yards almost entirely on short and intermediate routes. He kept drives going, spreading the ball to eight receivers. Acohido led the way with eight catches for 102 yards, and Powell caught seven for 86 yards.
Liberty scored first when a bad snap on a punt gave the Patriots the ball at the Jaguars 1-yard line. Chance Faitau scored on Liberty’s first offensive play, the first of two 1-yard TD runs for the senior fullback.
Desert Pines responded when Randal Grimes had a 51-yard touchdown scramble on the second play of the ensuing drive. The Patriots got good pressure on Grimes, but the senior, who has committed to Southern California, found a running lane. He then juked two defenders and got a downfield block to key the score, and the extra point gave Desert Pines a 7-6 lead with 8:38 left in the first quarter.
Grimes finished with 105 yards on 15 carries, but the Jaguars struggled to find any offensive rhythm. Speedy running back Isaiah Morris, who entered averaging 13.8 yards per carry, finished with 58 yards on 12 carries, 39 on a third-quarter TD.
“I’m just really proud of the defense,” Muraco said. “Coming into the year, there was a lot of talk about how great our offense was going to be, and really through these first three games, it’s been our defense that’s won the games for us.”
Liberty spread the carries between 10 players, with Bryson Delacruz leading the way with 76 yards on 11 carries.
Kishon Pitts added 40 yards on five carries, including a 6-yard TD with 45 seconds left for the Patriots, ranked 24th in the nation by USA Today.
“Now that we’re ranked, unfortunately, we’ve got to win and we got to win big,” Muraco said. “You’ve got to look good on the scoreboard and produce results.”
Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at 702-380-4587 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @DamonSeiters