CLOVIS — If football is a game of inches and key plays, then there are a few that Liberty would love to have back.
After trailing 28-7 going in the fourth quarter, Liberty scored three late touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough in a 34-28 loss to Clovis-Buchanan at Veterans Memorial Stadium on Thursday night.
Buchanan’s sensational sophomore running back Kendall Milton, who has more than a dozen offers from the top college programs on the west coast, rushed for 248 yards on 17 carries and scored four touchdowns, including a 46-yard scamper with 2:02 to play that put the Bears (4-0) back up by two scores after Liberty cut the lead to 28-21.
Liberty junior quarterback Isaiah Hill threw for 167 of his 211 yards in the second half, including three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter.
Hill connected with Jordan Cobb (6 catches for 55 yards) on a 16-yard score with 9:30 to play in the fourth. It was the first score for Liberty since Sam Stewart Jr. scored on a 1-yard rush on the second drive of the game for the Patriots (1-2).
After a three-and-out drive for Buchanan, Hill found Kobe Alvarez on a 14-yard pass to cut the lead to 28-21 with 5:39 left.
But Milton converted two firstdowns on the ensuing drive, and scored his final TD to the Bears breathing room, 34-21.
“You’ve got to hand it to Liberty, they didn’t give up,” Buchanan coach Matt Giordano said. “That just shows you what kind of program they are. They are a class program. They don’t give up, they are well coached and didn’t give up to the end.”
Milton quickly made up for a first quarter fumble that led the Liberty’s first touchdown.
Milton scored on a 19-yard run that gave Buchanan an 8-7 lead after Trevor Ervin scored on a 2-point conversion.
Then on consecutive plays in the second quarter, Milton busted through the Liberty defense for touchdown runs of 60 and 47 yards to give the Bears a commanding 28-7 halftime lead.
The Buchanan defense, led by Toa Scanlan, was relentless against Liberty in the first half, forcing two fumbles and recording three sacks, including Scanlan getting to Hill to force a fumble and recovery.
The turnover ended a drive for Liberty as the Patriots were in Bears’ territory at the 36 with less than a minute left in the first half. It marked the first time Liberty crossed the 50-yard line since Sam Stewart Jr. scored on a 1-yard run to give Liberty a 7-0 lead with 4:11 left in the first quarter.
Neither team scored in the third quarter that had four three-and-outs and a combined five punts, including two drives for Liberty that stalled at midfield.
Buchanan quarterback Ty Hall threw for just 40 yards, but it was the run game by Milton that kept the Bears on the field and in the lead.
Milton had five runs of at least 20 yards, including three touchdowns.
Stewart, after consecutive games of 100-plus rushing yards, was held to just 23 yards on 12 carries.
Liberty will play at Ridgeview next Friday in a make up of their Sept. 1 matchup cancelled because of excessive heat. The Patriots will play at state-ranked Westlake Village-Oaks Christian on Sept. 29 before playing Frontier at home Oct. 6 in the Southwest Yosemite League opener.