Skyline Spartans rout Liberty Patriots, 62-27

September 6, 2011

By Christopher Huber

Skyline scores 48 unanswered points to turn close match into no doubter

Hamilton Noel, Liberty senior running back, hits the open field during the first quarter Sept. 2 against Skyline. By Christopher Huber

Before the 2011 season opener against visiting Liberty High School, Skyline High School football coach Mat Taylor had only called a reverse one other time in a game.

But both times he called a reverse Sept. 2, it worked like a charm. The Patriots defense bit hard and overran the play, giving Skyline big yards. And on one of them, junior wide receiver Nic Sblendorio ran the ball in from 13 yards out for a game-tying touchdown in the second quarter.

“It’s something we feel we have to be able to do,” Taylor said.

Skyline did more than run a couple of tricky plays well against Liberty. The Spartans defense contained running back Hamilton Noel, limited the Liberty passing game and capitalized on turnovers in a big way. Skyline beat Liberty, 62-27, in the nonleague opener at Spartan Stadium.

“It was dire straits there for a little bit,” Taylor said. “But our kids are opportunistic.”

Those dire straits didn’t last long. Down 21-14 late in the second quarter, Skyline marched 60 yards to even things out on that reverse play.

Things got messy when Liberty fumbled at its own 23-yard line and Skyline scored on a Max Browne-Nate Gibson-Taggart Krueger pass play that put six points on the scoreboard. Liberty fumbled the ball on its next possession at the 30-yard line.

Skyline defensive end Brandon Fisher recovered the fumble with 51 seconds remaining in the half and Browne, the 6-foot-5 junior phenom, completed three passes and another touchdown, again throwing to a wide-open Krueger.

Browne completed 15 of 17 pass attempts for 178 yards and four touchdowns before Gibson took over in the third quarter.

“We prepared well. We came out with a lot of excitement,” Liberty quarterback Jordan West said. “We came in and I thought we did well. It was more or less mistakes. Once we made one, it all just fell apart.”

Liberty, which beat Skyline 39-34 last year, trailed 35-21 at halftime. But Skyline junior linebacker Peter Stromgren intercepted a pass from West at the Liberty 12-yard line just 10 seconds in. One play later, wide receiver Trevor Barney was crouching with the ball from Browne in the end zone. That put Skyline up 41-21 after Liberty blocked the extra point attempt.

But on the Patriots’ next possession, Spartan linebacker Peyton Pelluer recovered a blocked punt in the end zone to put the game away with 9:45 left in the third quarter.

Skyline scored 48 unanswered points in all.

“That was huge,” Taylor said about the turnovers.

Liberty scored on passing plays of 25 and 35 yards, respectively, and also scored off a fumble recovery in the second quarter. West, making his first varsity start at quarterback, threw three touchdown passes to three different receivers. He finished 10 for 22 passing for 170 yards and one interception. Liberty also earned 168 yards on the ground on 32 carries. Skyline held Noel to 45 yards on 14 carries in the first half.

“Defensively, we overran a lot of their stuff,” Liberty coach Steve Valach said. “It’s hard enough keeping Skyline out of the end zone from 80 yards out, let alone from 20 yards after giving up a turnover.

“They just kind of dominate there,” he said.

Skyline finished with 410 yards total offense. Liberty had 338. Skyline’s Damian Greene had 44 yards rushing on six carries and also had 78 yards on two receptions. Sblendorio finished with 47 yards on two carries, two receptions for 28 yards and a touchdown.

Valach said Liberty would work on a number of things as it gears up for week two. The team plays at Issaquah Sept. 9. Skyline hosts Bellevue, the defending 3A state champions, the same night.

“We can’t control Skyline, but we can control us,” Valach said. “We got to fix what we can fix.”

Christopher Huber: 392-6434, ext. 242, or chuber@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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