BY NICK GIANNANDREA The Fresno Bee
FRESNO -- The showdown between two of the Central Section's top football teams more than lived up to the hype Friday night at Deran Koligian Stadium.
It took three overtimes to decide, in fact.
In the end, it was a 2-point conversation pass from Josh Medina to Justin Nieto that provided the difference in Liberty's 43-41 victory over Fresno-Central.
"That was the most crazy game I've ever played in," said Medina, a senior quarterback who passed for 226 yards with three touchdowns while also rushing for 42 yards and three scores.
"Both sides played really hard. I just loved the way we finished it out tough."
Medina scored the tying touchdown on a 1-yard sneak to equalize the 20-yard scoring pass Central's Eric Jimenez had thrown to Michiah Quick five plays earlier.
The Grizzlies, however, had their mandatory 2-point conversion attempt in triple-overtime fall incomplete.
"If you're a high school football fan, this was an amazing night," Central coach Justin Garza said. "I was proud of the way our kids fought and kept fighting, but we are not disciplined enough. Until we are, we'll keep losing games like this."
Central (1-2) nearly had a chance to win in double overtime when the Grizzlies forced a fourth-and-15 play from the 30-yard line. But Medina escaped the pass rush for what seemed like an eternity before finding Quincy Jountti in the back of the end zone, even though the pass was actually intended for 6-foot-1 tight end Ross Puskarich. Liberty went for two and convert on a reverse-field, halfback pass from Anthony Mariscal to Medina.
"The quarterback did a good job there, but we should not have given them that opportunity," Garza said.
The Grizzlies came right back and forced the third overtime when Quole Wilson scored on a 7-yard run, followed by a 2-point conversion pass from Quick to David Marshall.
David Hernandez came up with a huge block of a 22-yard field goal attempt late in the fourth quarter to keep Central's deficit at 21-14.
The Grizzlies went on a nine-play, 81-yard drive for the tying points, which came on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Jimenez to Tee Freeman.
Central played without Arizona-bound Sharif Williams (lineman) and running back Nick Wilson (running back), who were each injured in the Grizzlies' season-opening 31-7 loss to Valor Christian of Highlands Ranch, Colo., three weeks ago.
"I think we're going to be a good football team," Garza said. "But we're going to do it the hard way. We are not very mature yet."