No. 21 Liberty (Henderson, Nev.) gets another shot at No. 1 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) with the state title on the line.
Liberty downed Damonte Ranch (Reno), 30-27, on Saturday to win its seventh Sunrise Region championship and advances to face Gorman for the 4A title next weekend.
A year ago, Gorman beat Liberty 62-21 in a game that many expected to be closer.
On Saturday, Damonte Ranch took a 6-0 lead with 3:15 remaining in the first quarter. Ethan Dedeaux scored on a 3-yard run to cap a 17-play drive with 8:09 left in the second quarter. With the extra point, Liberty (12-1) led 7-0 and did not trail again.
Dedeaux caught an 18-yard TD pass from Kenyon Oblad for a 14-6 lead midway through the second quarter and it remained that way at halftime.
Liberty held Damonte Ranch to 95 yards in the first half, including minus-1 yards rushing.
The game tightened on a sequence that included a safety and Damonte Ranch then scored on the first play after the free kick and Liberty’s lead was 17-15.
Dedeaux plowed in from the 1-yard line on fourth-and-goal for his third TD of the game and a 23-15 lead.
Crishaun Lappin, ordinarily a defensive tackle, caught a 36-yard TD pass from Oblad and the lead seemed safe at 30-15 midway through the fourth quarter. Damonte Ranch answered with a score, but could get no closer than the final margin.
Damonte (12-2) came into the game averaging 43 points per game and on a 12-game winning streak since losing to Cathedral Catholic from San Diego in the opener.
Liberty has had a strong program for several years, but coach Rich Muraco said this version might be tops among all the previous teams. And now the Patriots have the state title game ahead of them.
“It’s hard to say the best when you’re in the middle of it. I’ve had some teams with better individual players on it, but this team, to me, is the best that’s come together and bought into the system and believe in each other and believe in themselves and do all the right things,” Muraco told Gannett partner the Reno Gazette-Journal.