Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013 | 11:30 p.m.
Liberty High football coach Rich Muraco knew breaking in a roster of several first-time varsity players would include some trying moments.
He likely didn’t imagine they would be this difficult.
The Patriots showed their inexperience Saturday against Tucson’s Salpointe Catholic in the Sollenberger Classic, giving up 28 first-quarter points in a 48-7 defeat.
Salpointe Catholic quarterback Andrew Cota was unstoppable, passing for five touchdowns and more than 250 yards, and rushing for another score, all in the first half.
Liberty trailed 42-0 at halftime, signaling the mercy rule of a running clock.
The three-time defending Sunrise Region Patriots were expected to have some ups and down while playing sophomores and a freshman at key positions. A running clock, however, was shocking to all.
“Just about everything that could go wrong, went wrong,” Muraco said of the first quarter.
To Liberty’s credit, they didn’t stop playing the second half. The Patriots finished with about 200 total yards of offense, scoring their lone points midway through the fourth quarter on Brenan Adams’ 3-yard touchdown run.
Sure, much of the Liberty second-half success came against Salpointe’s reserves. But it was a step in the right direction.
“We have a lot to improve upon, that is for sure,” Muraco said. “I knew I was playing some younger guys in key spots. We have to make some adjustments, review the film and get ready for next week’s opponent.”
The schedule doesn’t get any easier, especially next week.
Muraco scheduled three out-of-state opponents this season with hopes of getting his players familiar with a big game environment. Last year, they lost to Bishop Gorman in the state championship game, and Muraco borrowed Gorman’s philosophy of scheduling the best.
Next Friday, the best is nationally ranked Centennial High of Corona, Calif., in what could be another long night. But if the night includes improved play like in the second half tonight, Muraco might be willing to live with the result.
After all, his team hasn’t lost to a Sunrise Region opponent in three years, and preseason defeats won’t keep a team from reaching the playoffs.
It’s all about getting the young players ready for the long haul.
“The whole point to wanting to play these games against better teams is learning to compete for four quarters,” he said. “You can’t give up, you can’t get down on yourself. You are going to get beat on big play and you have to be able to bounce back from that.
“Hopefully, as we go through our season, we will have less and less of those mistakes,” he continued.
Senior quarterback Tyler Newman completed 10-of-22 passes for 108 yards to lead the offense. Sophomore tailback Calvin Tubbs was the leading rushing with six carries for 32 yards.