A week after Liberty was held scoreless until the waning moments in Orange County, a little home cooking was just the trick.
After opening the season with a blowout loss to Mission Viejo a week ago, it was the Patriots doing the damage in a 38-0 win over Ridgeview in the home opener on Friday night.
“This is a really big win,” Liberty senior running back/linebacker Sam Stewart, Jr. said. “Coming off that loss last week, we went back to the drawing board.”
Stewart started it off for Liberty with a 36-yard scamper on the Patriots opening drive and scored once again in the third quarter while also helping the Liberty defense limit Ridgeview and Tahj Wright all night.
“Our entire defense played really well tonight,” Liberty coach Bryan Nixon said.
Tahj Wright accounted for nearly 250 total offensive yards and five touchdowns In the season opener against Stockdale.
Against Liberty, Wright was 0-3 passing and just eight yards rushing on three carries before Justin Hinzo took over at quarterback late in the first quarter. Wright and Hinzo rotated at quarterback while Hinzo was limited to just 51 yards passing on 7 of 13 passing.
“Liberty was a lot better than us tonight,” Ridgeview coach Dennis Manning said. “They really took it to us.”
Liberty took a 14-0 lead when Sloan Simpson stripped the ball from Alijah Alexander-Williams and Ramon Henderson picked it up at the 21-yard line and returned it for a score.
Ridgeview was unable to score in the opening half, punting the ball away to Liberty with just 23 seconds left in the half. Instead of kneeling and going into the half with a two-score lead, Hector Gonzalez connected with a sprinting Connor Matzke who bolted past the Ridgeview secondary for 74-yard touchdown pass with 10 seconds left to put Liberty up 21-0.
“Ridgeview is so fast as a team,” Matzke said. “But I was able to get behind them and just took over from there.”
It got even more opportunistic for Liberty. Ridgeview fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half with Chris Muniz recovering the ball at the 16-yard line. Two plays later, Stewart punched it in from the 1 for his second rushing score of the night.
Hunter Riley picked off a Wright pass deep in Ridgeview’s territory later in the third. Two plays later, Nate Mariscal scored from the 1 to make it 35-0.
“Our kids played really well. We are really pleased with them,” Nixon said. “We talk about the growth from week 1 to week 2 and they were physical and made plays tonight. We eliminated the big plays on defense.”
Stewart led Liberty (1-1) with 134 rushing yards on 14 carries and on consecutive defensive plays in the third quarter, Stewart sacked Wright and then chased him down in the backfield on the next play.
“Sammy played great tonight,” Nixon said.
Stewart and Wright grew up playing Golden Empire Youth Football (GEYF) against each other. For the two seniors likely going against each other for the fifth time in four years on varsity, Stewart said this win means a lot.
“That’s a great one,” Stewart said. “That goes back to GEYF. That’s my guy. He’s so shifty, but we were able to get him tonight.”