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Liberty rides junior running back to win over Hawaii school

Liberty switched quarterbacks, formations and tempos with varying degrees of success Friday night. The one constant for the Patriots was the play of Isaiah Lauofo.

The junior running back rushed for 162 yards on 23 carries as the Patriots held off visiting Kamehameha Kapalama (Hawaii) 25-18 to snap a three-game losing streak.

“He’s a great back,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “He’s got such good vision. He’s physical. For being a smaller guy, he’s a hammer, breaks a lot of tackles. He’s such a great competitor.”

Lauofo was especially important down the stretch for the Patriots (2-3) after the Warriors had rallied from a 25-0 deficit to make things interesting.

He carried the ball seven times on the final two drives, picking up two key first downs to help the team run clock. Lauofo’s numbers would have been even more impressive had he not had a long run called back because of a holding penalty in the third quarter.

“I can’t say enough good things about him,” Muraco said. “He’s a competitor, and he’s smart, and there’s no quit in him. It’s nice when you have a kid like that that you can turn around and give the ball 25 or 30 times. He’s definitely a reliable piece to our offense.”

The rest of the offense struggled with consistency as the Patriots continue to search for an offensive identity. Muraco switched between Colin Gregorio and Tyrese Smith at quarterback, and both showed flashes.

Gregorio rushed for 65 yards on nine carries, including a 13-yard touchdown run, and also had an 18-yard scoring pass to Jae Beasley. Smith completed his first six passes and helped set up Gregorio’s TD run after he entered the game and the Patriots pushed the pace.

“Offensively, we’re still trying to figure out who the guy’s going to be at quarterback and what style we want to play behind that person,” Muraco said. “One guy’s maybe a little better in the passing game, and one guy’s a little better with his feet. So we’re still kind of finding our way there.”

Liberty led 25-0 after a 47-yard field goal by Lendua Raiyawa with 6:26 to go. But the Patriots were unable to put Kamehameha away, and the Warriors (0-3-1) scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns.

“I felt like once we got up 25-0, the kids kind of took their foot off the gas a little and didn’t have the killer instinct to really take them out of the game,” Muraco said.

Kamehameha quarterback Kealii Ah Yat had TD passes of 31 and 13 yards and added a 3-yard scoring run. He finished 25-for-39 passing for 279 yards. He threw for 155 yards in the fourth quarter.

Liberty finished its schedule against out-of-state opponents 1-3. The Patriots play Faith Lutheran next week.

“Anytime you can get a win it feels good,” Muraco said. “We challenged ourselves with our out-of-state schedule, and things didn’t go the way they should have, especially the last two games. Getting a win is great.”

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