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Liberty cleans up its act, dominates

A sloppy ending to a somewhat lackluster first half against Basic had Liberty coach Rich Muraco fuming.

The fourth-ranked Patriots blew a golden opportunity just before intermission after a Wolves player inexplicably touched a punt and Liberty recovered the ball at the Basic 10-yard line with seven seconds left.

Liberty sent its field-goal unit out, but the kick was blocked, and the Patriots had to settle for a 7-7 halftime tie.

Muraco threw his headset down before retreating to the locker room.

Whatever he said to his team in the next 15 minutes certainly got through to them.

Liberty shut down No. 7 Basic in the second half on its way to a 42-7 home rout Friday night.

“It’s something we talked about in our own film sessions. I thought we had addressed it and cleaned it up,” he said of the blocked field goal.
“I went in there and almost had an aneurism yelling at them. I challenged them. I said, ‘(You all) think you’re this big strong team, and you’re basically getting your rear ends kicked.’

“They responded to it and came out strong in the second half.”

After getting outgained 180-101 before halftime, the Patriots allowed 54 yards in the second half. The suffocating defense enabled Liberty (4-1, 3-0 Southeast League) to start all five of its second-half touchdown drives in Basic territory.

“We came out fired up (in the second half). Defense is our main thing on this team, and we came out and stopped them and put the game in our control,” said all-Southeast League defensive lineman Sam Tai, who was playing his first game of the year after a leg injury.

The Patriots also established the run in the second half.

After Basic (4-2, 1-2) went three-and-out to begin the third quarter, Liberty received a punt at the Wolves 42. The Patriots ran the ball nine straight times, culminating with a 20-yard touchdown run by Ty Byrd.

On Basic’s ensuing possession, Tai blocked a punt. Liberty had previously committed two penalties for contacting the punter, who utilizes a rollout to the right before kicking the ball away.

“He was rolling out to the right side every time, and I just figured if I ran to that area, he’s going to run right to me,” Tai said. “He’s not going to be smart enough to run away. I just used my body to my advantage and stretched out, and it hit my helmet.”

Two more running plays resulted in a touchdown for Jordan Kapeli.

Liberty quarterback Kai Nacua attempted just 11 passes, but two of his four completions went for scores. The sophomore connected with Austin Etheridge on a 42-yard TD in the first quarter and hit Teddy Efthemeou for a 36-yard score early in the fourth quarter.

In all, six players scored touchdowns for Liberty, including a 1-yard run by Nacua.

The Patriots used a balanced attack on the ground as five players ran for at least 27 yards but none had more than 42.

“Our offensive line is big and physical, and they really started to open up holes for us in the second half,” said Byrd, who had 31 yards on seven carries.

The Patriots ran for 173 yards, including 130 after halftime.

Vince Carducci threw for 147 yards and a touchdown for Basic, but 120 of his yards came in the first half.

Basic had opportunities to take control of the game early. The Wolves had a first-and-goal from inside the Liberty 5 in the first quarter but turned the ball over on downs.

Basic’s Antraye Johnson led all rushers with 54 yards.

Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5509.

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