As time ran out, Liberty’s players, coaches and fans stormed the football field at Silverado High School to celebrate the biggest win in school history.
A few players tossed their helmets and sprayed water in the air, seemingly washing away the sting and stigma of five straight losing seasons and five losses in a row to the rival Skyhawks.
Controlling the clock and ball by running the double-wing offense for all but one play, the Patriots scored on their first possession of the game — on a 5-yard touchdown rumble by senior Sage Nua — to take a lead, and their swarming defense made the score stand in a 6-0 upset of fourth-ranked Silverado.
“Every single student, teacher, administrator, player and coach believed we could win, and you could see it tonight on the field,” Liberty coach Lou Markouzis said. “This was the biggest win in my (12-year) coaching career and the biggest win ever at Liberty, no question.”
The Skyhawks (3-1) drove from their 21 to the Patriots’ 30 in the final minutes but were stopped on fourth-and-1. Silverado running back Terran Madu-Jules, held to 12 yards on 15 carries, fumbled the ball and recovered it on the 31 — 2 yards shy of a first down.
“They crushed us up front,” Silverado coach Andy Ostolaza said. “Their defensive line just manhandled our offensive line, and our backs ran a little timid tonight.”
Liberty forced five Silverado fumbles, including four by quarterback Kyle Simmons, who was tackled five times for a loss of 26 yards. The Patriots held the Skyhawks to minus-2 yards rushing overall.
Silverado also drove deep into Liberty territory to open the second half, but Michael Wadsworth dropped an apparent touchdown pass from Simmons (12 of 21, 119 yards) on fourth-and-7 from the 17.
The unranked Patriots, who rushed 57 times for 213 yards, improved to 3-1 and 1-0 in the Southeast Division after going 1-8 and 0-6 last season.
“They wanted the game more than we did,” Ostolaza said. “They turned it into a neighborhood war, and our guys took it like an average game.”
The defending division champion Skyhawks suffered their first shutout loss at home under Ostolaza, who guided them to a 10-1 record, 6-0 in the Southeast, last year.
Liberty came up empty on four other trips deep into Silverado territory and was 1-for-5 on fourth-down attempts, but its defense stood tall.
“We finally said ‘enough’s enough,’ ” Markouzis said. “We don’t want to be the doormat in the division anymore. We want to be a team to be reckoned with.”
“We proved everybody wrong,” said Carlos Tautoto, who led Liberty rushers with 104 yards on 28 carries. “Liberty’s not down in last place anymore. We’re No. 1.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354.NevadaPreps.comIn-depth high school sports coverage