Next week’s Class 5A southern championship between Bishop Gorman and Liberty seemed like a foregone conclusion the way both teams have been playing.
But the Patriots played Friday night like they almost forgot they had to take another step before facing the Gaels.
“We were kind of getting too cocky,” Liberty wide receiver Germie Bernard said after his team pulled away late to beat visiting Arbor View 30-8. “We needed that wake-up call for next week so that we can be prepared to beat Gorman.”
The Patriots’ focus appeared to be missing against Arbor View, at least early. Quarterback Jayden Maiava threw an interception in the end zone on first down. Later, Bernard picked up a punt at his 4-yard line because he said thought the ball might die before the goal line, but was tackled in the end zone for a safety.
Those sorts of plays made the game more difficult for a Patriots team that entered having outscored its Nevada opponents by a combined 405-53.
“My pregame speech yesterday was, ‘Don’t believe the hype,’” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “I knew (the Aggies) were going to be fired up and they were going to give their best effort because if you’re prideful, you’re not going to just lay down.”
Arbor View coach Matt Gerber said he believed he would get this kind of effort from his team, and the first meeting — a 42-14 loss — wasn’t indicative of how close that game was, either.
“It was eerily similar to how this game went,” Gerber said. “We know we can compete with them. We made too many mistakes tonight, crucial ones at bad times. It’s too bad for the kids because we can get them. It’s something for our kids next year to build toward and understand.”
The Aggies were only down 17-8 in the fourth quarter when Bernard rushed for a 12-yard touchdown. He added a 94-yard scoring run with 1:59 left.
The Patriots put Bernard in the backfield in the second half, and he produced 185 yards on nine carries. That in addition to catching three passes for 92 yards.
“I told Coach, ‘We’ve got to put the ball in my hands. We’ve got to do something different,’” Bernard said. “We switched up personnel, went into a package that worked and put the ball in my hands. We capitalized off of that.”
It wasn’t exactly a tough sell to Muraco.
“We have to give the best player in the state the ball in his hands,” Muraco said. “We’ve been working him at running back and quarterback and trying to figure out ways to get him the ball because we know when we play Gorman and we play better teams, he’s got to touch the ball more.”