Lone Star Gridiron

Austin Westlake Falls to Henderson Liberty (NV)

Stephen C Thomas VI

photo: Stephen C Thomas VI

Liberty knocks off Westlake in first-ever game in Texas

In its brief thirteen-year history, the Liberty Patriots’ football program from Henderson, Nevada has come a long way literally and figuratively. Performance-wise, the Patriots have gone from doormat to state-title contender. According to one of Liberty’s coaches, the Patriots’ scored their first-ever points when their opponent actually gave them the play they were going call. Distance-wise, the Patriots have traveled to Arizona, California, and even Hawaii in search of quality opponents. The reason is simple. They want to keep up with (and ideally beat) local rival and national powerhouse Bishop Gorman. Last week, Gorman travelled to Arlington and beat Texas powerhouse Cedar Hill at AT&T Stadium. This week the Patriots followed suit and made their first-ever trip to Texas to take on the 6A powerhouse, #1 ranked Austin Westlake Chaparrals. The game also marked Westlake’s first-ever game against an out-of-state opponent.

One week after knocking off defending 6A-Division II champion Katy, Westlake faced Liberty without star senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger. In his place, senior quarterback Matt Gense made his first-ever varsity start. The Chaps’ opening drive started out well with junior running back Nakia Watson rushing for 36 yards on four carries. After that, however, the Chaps offense stalled; and neither offense could get going.

Early in the second quarter, Liberty junior quarterback Kenyon Oblad connected with senior wide receiver Darion Acohido on a 28-yard touchdown pass to give the Patriots a 7-0 lead. Neither team could generate much of a scoring threat for the rest of the first half. Both defenses held the opposing offenses in check, and Liberty squandered a promising drive when Oblad fumbled the snap in Westlake territory.

Early in the third quarter, the Westlake special teams gave the struggling offense a much-needed boost. After forcing the Liberty offense to go three-and-out, the Chaps blocked the Liberty punt and set up the offense at the Liberty 18-yard line. A few plays later, Nakia Watson found the end zone to tie the game at 7-7.

Liberty responded on the ensuing drive with an 84-yard drive culminating in Oblad connecting with senior wide receiver Ethan Dedeaux for the go-ahead touchdown. The Chaps looked poised to tie the game again on the following drive. However, the Chaps’ promising drive ended in disaster when senior running back Steele O’Connor fumbled the ball at the Liberty 10-yard line.

Following the turnover, the Oblad found Dedeaux again on a 31-yard touchdown catch to cap a six-play 87-yard drive to increase the Patriots’ lead to 21-7. Westlake wasted little time responding as Gense connected with junior wide receiver Jacob Ramos on a 68-yard touchdown pass to narrow the gap to 21-14.  For both players, it was their first varsity touchdown. Despite the Chaps’ defense setting up the offense with excellent field position on the next two drives, the offensive struggles continued. After forcing Westlake to go three-and-out on those drives, the Patriots’ offense was able to run out the clock and seal the win.

With the win, the Liberty improves to 2-0 on the season. The Nevada second-ranked Patriots will have a bye next week before hosting Desert Pines (Las Vegas).

Westlake, meanwhile, falls to 1-1 on the year. Next week, the Chaparrals will host Pflugerville. The Panthers are also 1-1 after beating Leander 28-20 on Friday.

by Stephen C Thomas VI

What are your thoughts?