With three minutes remaining in the game, Liberty’s once three-touchdown lead appeared to be slipping away.
Alta High School of Utah was driving down the field with a chance to cut the deficit to one score, when Liberty freshman safety Zyrus Fiaseu stepped in front of a pass to the sideline.
He returned the interception 70-yards down the sideline, his Troy Polamalu-like hair waiving out the back of his helmet, just like the red Kahuku flags waiving in the stands packed with Polynesian fans.
The touchdown sealed Liberty’s 28-7 win over Alta in the inaugural Polynesian Classic at Sam Boyd Stadium Friday night. The game preceded a national matchup between Kahuku of Hawaii, and Bingham of Utah.
Thousands of Kahuku fans filled the stands and cheered on Liberty before their team took the field in the second game.
“It’s a big family,” Fiaseu said. “It’s what we have behind our backs and what we play for.”
The freshman already has two touchdowns in only three games at Liberty. Fiaseu was born and raised in Las Vegas, but represented his Samoan decent well on Saturday.
“Ever since I was in elementary school I’ve wanted to play in Sam Boyd Stadium,” he said. “This was amazing.”
Liberty was once again carried by senior quarterback Kenyon Oblad, who completed 28-of-44 passes for 365 yards and two touchdowns.
“(Oblad) did pretty good especially considering we had some breakdowns in protection from time to time,” said Liberty coach Rich Muraco. “He showed that he could scramble and extend a drive with his feet. He did a great job tonight.”
Oblad found seven different receivers throughout the game, but senior Marquez Powell was his favorite target. Powell finished with 10 catches for 142 yards and a score.
“(Powell) is a hard matchup because he’s so tall and he’s a physical kid,” Muraco said. “We are expecting big things from him this year.”
The win exercised some demons for Liberty at Sam Boyd Stadium. The Patriots’ last two trips to the stadium ended in blowout losses to Bishop Gorman in the state championship game.
“We finally broke the bad juju,” Powell said. “It’s nice to see Kahuku fans come out here to support us.”
Running back Kishon Pitts also had a big game for Liberty, racking up 75 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground while also catching six passes for 43 yards.
The Patriots out gained Alta 472-331 in what was a great bounce-back effort following their 31-0 loss to American Heritage High in Florida.
“Confidence is a touchy thing,” Muraco said. “Even though you’re playing really tough teams, when you lose sometimes that’s when the questions start to come up or people start doubting things. It’s always nice to come right back after a loss and get a win, to get the ship righted.”
In between the two football games, fans were treated to a concert by Grammy-nominated Reggae artist Fiji.
“It’s big, especially with it being the first time for the Polynesian Classic,” Muraco said. “They’re going to continue to do this every year. They want to make it bigger and better. They’ve already invited us back for next year.”