The Liberty Patriots, who will face two huge Hawaii football tests in consecutive weeks, have a bunch of Hawaii kids and coaches on the roster.
The team from Henderson, Nev., flies to Hawaii this week to prepare for its season-opening game against No. 2 Saint Louis (1-0) on Saturday at Aloha Stadium, and then will return home to get ready for No. 1 Mililani (2-0), which will visit the suburb of Las Vegas for a Sept. 4 game.
The list of Liberty’s Hawaii players is a long one — running backs Kishon Pitts and Adam Lemos-Dimas, linebackers Kaimi Batoon, Danner Dunston, Jhamez Brack and Nick Moniz, safety Kamalu Batoon, defensive end/tight end Nayton Koki, offensive lineman Nick Tapaula, running back/linebacker Alofania Tevaseu, cornerback Randyn Villanueva, slotback Bryson Dela Cruz and wide receiver Darion Acohido.
Under head coach Rich Muraco, the Patriots’ staff consists of Hawaii’s Kaipo Batoon (co-defensive coordinator), Nua Agatonu (co-defensive coordinator) and Chad Kapanui (offensive coordinator).
According to Muraco, coach Batoon, a former Saint Louis player, contacted Crusaders head coach Cal Lee, who agreed to set up the game.
Pitts, a sophomore, played for the Kapolei JV team a year ago. He transferred to Liberty in January.
As for the Mililani game, Trojans coach Rod York reached out to Kapanui and Agatonu several years ago in an effort to schedule a game in Hawaii at that time, but it didn’t come to fruition, according to Muraco, who added that York called to set up this season’s game, saying Mililani would be able to visit.
“That was perfect,” Muraco said. “This is awesome for our program. We’ve played some teams ranked in the top 20 in recent seasons. Saint Louis (No. 35, MaxPreps) is ranked high and Mililani (No. 8) is even higher. We’re excited. Playing teams of this caliber will help prepare us for Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas). They’re on Bishop Gorman’s level.”
Liberty is ranked No. 496 nationally and the Bishop Gorman Gaels are No. 3.
In the last five seasons, the Patriots have won Nevada’s Sunrise Region title each time and made it to the state semifinals four times. The one year they made it to the state final, they lost to the Gaels.
Muraco has been with the Liberty football team since the school opened 13 years ago and is in his seventh year as head coach.
The Patriots play out of multiple formations on offense, including the spread, and they like to pass. Defensively, they run a 3-4 flex.
Sophomore quarterback Kenyon Oblad, who has been offered a scholarship by BYU, started every game as a freshman, and Muraco said the team has many dangerous wide-receiver types. Another player to watch is 6-foot-6, 380-pound guard Sala Amuavae-Laulu, who Muraco said is going places and has improved since his sophomore season last year, when he was already drawing interest from Notre Dame, Oregon State and UNLV.
Saint Louis is coming off a convincing 55-6 victory over Fagaitua, the defending champions from American Samoa, on Friday at Aloha Stadium.
Mililani topped Campbell 49-21 at home on Saturday.