Eagles 34 - Liberty 14

BAKERSFIELD, CA., September 1, 2023 – On Friday, Santa Margarita Catholic made the three-hour/185 mile trek up to Bakersfield to take on strong Liberty HS club. The Patriots are the defending CIF-State Division 1-AA champions. After the first quarter of play, the game looked as if it would be a classic shootout as both schools displayed little defensive success -- allowing numerous long-distance plays. Tied at 14-14, the Eagles defense rose to a fever pitch and played its best three quarters of ball in some time. With the offense doing its job as well, SMC rolled to a 34-14 victory. Liberty opened the game with a flurry of activity, scoring two touchdowns during a 0:54 second stretch, they soon learned that pace was not sustainable. Part of the issue was that SMC was able to employ a no-huddle offense to change the game’s pace.

SMC scored the last 27 points in the game thanks to the dominant game enjoyed by Trent Mosley. The talented sophomore took over the game and made a case for himself as the most dynamic playmaker in Southern California prep football. Lining up all over the field, Mosley rushed for two scores and caught two touchdown passes in the resounding win. He entered the contest with four touchdown so far (all rushing) and left having doubled his output. Mosley’s touchdown passes were 83 and 10 yards in length, both from Hunter Melton. He totaled 227 yards of offense as the Eagles gained 471 as a team -- highest output this season.

Another offensive weapon that is difficult for opponents to control, Sean Embree, had a beautiful 46-yard touchdown catch from Melton early in the game. Melton finished 17-of-25 (68.0%) passing for 316 yards and three touchdowns. Mosley tallied 187 receiving yards on nine catches (20.8 average) and on the ground mustered three carries for 40 yards (13.3 average). Embree had six catches for 124 yards (20.7 average). All of those statistical numbers for the three players are new career highs.

Defensively, Logan Hirou snagged one interception and now has three for the season. LeVar Talley contributed two tackles for loss and one sack. He and teammate Gage Burnett led the team with eight tackles.

The triumph for the team and coaches is no doubt the “signature win” in young head coach Anthony Rouzier’s tenure at the helm.

Santa Margarita 14 14 6 0 34
Liberty 14 0 0 0 14

LIB – Delouth 3 run (Smith kick)
SM – Mosley 82 pass from Melton (Gass kick)
LIB – Degraffereid 77 pass from O'Brien (Smith kick)
SM – Mosley 1 run (Gass kick)
SM – Mosley 1 run (Gass Kick)
SM – Embree 46 pass from Melton (Gass kick)
SM – Mosley 10 pass from Melton (kick failed)

Rushing: SM - Lendsey 16-59, Robinson 8-50; LIB - O'Brien 10-71
Passing: SM - Melton 17-25-0-316; LIB - O'Brien 11-21-1-180
Receiving: SM - Mosley 9-187, Embree 6-124; LIB - Young 3-36

Summary by Chuck Nan
Statistics by Shane Mielke


Fast start not enough as Liberty falls to state-ranked Santa Margarita in home opener

BAKERSFIELD, CA., September 1, 2023 – Liberty opened Friday night’s home opener with a flurry, scoring two touchdowns during a 54-second stretch to take a 7-point lead against Santa Margarita, the ninth-ranked team in the state.

Unfortunately, that pace was not sustainable, and the 19th-ranked Patriots didn’t score again.

The Eagles accelerated the game’s pace, going to a no-huddle offense and Santa Margarita took off.

When the dust settled sophomore wide receiver Trent Mosley had 229 total yards and four touchdowns and the Eagles scored 27 straight points to pull away for a 34-14 victory to snap Liberty’s 12-game win streak that included last year’s CIF State Division 1-A championship.

“We just talked about doing the little things right,” Liberty coach Bryan Nixon said. “There’s a lot of little things that could have changed that outcome a little I think. We made some little mistakes against a really good football team and that kind of bites you in the tail.”

The Patriots (2-1) forced Santa Margarita to a three-and-out to start the game and then moved the 55 yards on 10 plays to take an early 7-0 lead on a 2-yard scoring plunge by Mehki Delouth just six minutes into the game.

Liberty’s defense then stopped Skylar Lendsey for a three yard loss on first down on the Eagles’ next possession.

What followed became an all-to-familiar occurrence Friday night.

On the following play, Santa Margarita quarterback Hunter Melton threw a screen pass to Mosley in front of the visiting sideline and the speedy receiver spun free and raced up field for an 83-yard touchdown to tie the game just 35 seconds after the Patriots’ initial score.

Liberty responded after the ensuing kickoff when senior quarterback Cole O’Brien connected with Devari Degraffenreid across the middle for a 77-yard scoring strike to give the Patriots the lead again with 5:20 left in the opening quarter.

Not to be outdone, the Eagles then marched 80-yards on nine plays, with Mosley scoring on a one-yard run out of a wildcat formation.

After forcing Liberty to give up the ball on downs, Santa Margarita (2-1) took the lead for good with another sustained 13-play, 68-yard drive. Mosley scored again, this time from two yards out to make it 21-14 with 4:38 left in the first half.

The Eagles forced another Patriots’ punt and Santa Margarita scored again, this time on a 46-yard pass and run along the opposite sideline, Melton to Sean Embree to build a 28-14 halftime lead.

“I think in that second quarter we were behind the chains,” Nixon said. “I think we had four or five holding calls that just kind of had us chasing first downs at that point. So we weren’t able to overcome those things and in the second half we couldn’t really get anything going.”

Melton threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Mosley on their team’s opening possession of the second half to complete the game’s scoring.

Melton finished 16 of 23 passing for 305 yards and three touchdowns, with Mosley tallying 187 receiving yards on eight catches. Embree has six catches for 120 yards.

Although the Eagles finished with 439 total yards, the Liberty defense picked up the pace in the second half, holding Santa Margarita to just six points. Jamel Davis recovered a fumble to stall an Eagle drive and Landon McDevitt had a sack to force a punt on another.

But following the fast start, Liberty struggled to move the ball consistently, and was hampered by penalties all night.

O’Brien had a big night statistically, finishing 11 of 20 passing for 180 yards and rushing for 68 on 10 carries.

Liberty’s tough schedule continues next Friday with a 6:30 p.m. game at Clovis-Buchanan followed by a home game against Fresno-Central at 7:30.

“With games like this I think we find out how we respond to adversity,” Nixon said. “We had a little adversity tonight and how did we respond? It’s being able to look at the little things, and ‘hey if we do this better we’re going to be better at the end of the day.’”

By Ron Stapp
Friday, September 1, 2023
The Bakersfield Californian