There have been a lot of uncommon occurrences for Liberty football coach Bryan Nixon in the first month of the season.
First, Liberty nearly let a two-touchdown second-half lead go before hanging onto a 31-30 season-opening victory against Clovis West when the Golden Eagles missed an extra point with 15 seconds left in the game.
There was the county-wide cancellation or postponement of games because of the extreme heat a week later, forcing teams to practice at 5 a.m.
Then, the Patriots went up to Fresno last week and came home with a lopsided 30-3 loss to BVarsity Central Section top-ranked Fresno-Central.
Now, the third-ranked Patriots (1-1) are on the road tonight in a rare Thursday night football game for a Kern County team at No. 6 Clovis-Buchanan (3-0) at 7 p.m.
For Nixon, all of the rarities can be learning experiences and chances to improve while playing one of the toughest schedules in the Central Section.
“In all reality, you want to win every game,” Nixon said. “But with our schedule, losses will come. But it’s about the process to get better. This week, the kids responded well and have to really come mentally prepared on a short week of practice.”
Liberty’s schedule leaves little room for error. The Patriots' current four-game road trip includes Ridgeview next week and state No. 18 Westlake Village-Oaks Christian on Sept. 29.
Nixon felt his team had a solid, if shortened, week of practice.
“I think they responded well,” Nixon said. “They were very good in film session and had great attention to detail.”
A key this week is improving the passing game that accumulated just 79 yards against Central.
“We just have to continue to work on that,” Nixon said. “We are really focused on that. It’s about the progression. We caught the ball well in the first week. But we didn’t last week. We need to get better at that each week.”
Despite the tough night throwing the ball, Liberty has continued to find success on the ground as quarterback Isaiah Hill and running back Sam Stewart Jr. have combined to average more than 200 rushing yards per game.
The run game has also been a plus for the Bears, led by super sophomore Kendall Milton.
“They have two really good running back and a quarterback that keeps you off balance,” Nixon said. “Their defense is very active. A very solid football team.”
Defensively, Stewart led Liberty with nine tackles against Central, and Ben Olinger had three sacks.
“You look at the positive things we’ve done and the mistakes, and we work to get better on those things,” Nixon said. “And if we continue to get 11 guys flying to the ball defensively, we will continue to improve as a team.”