BVarsity Blog

Friday, Aug 23 2013 03:31 PM

2013 HS football previews: Liberty

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BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer zewing@bakersfield.com

A quick BVarsity Alumni Report to start: Neither Cody Kessler (Centennial -> USC) nor Tyler Ferguson (Ridgeview -> College of the Sequoias -> Penn State) knows whether he'll be starting when their respective teams open up the season next weekend, at least not as of this writing. Kessler is embroiled in a battle with Mater Dei's Max Wittek (and he's battling history as well as another player, see here), and Ferguson is duking it out with Christian Hackenburg, a star incoming freshman. We'll know when the coaches know, I suppose, or at the very least when they decide to tell us.

Meanwhile, back in the high school ranks, the last Friday without football is upon us. That's exciting, and it's more exciting because there are scrimmages across the Central Section this weekend. In fact, BVarsity Live will make its 2013 debut at 7 tonight from the Wasco at Garces scrimmage. Tune in to bakersfield.com to check it out and tell me how great (or terrible) my play-by-play skills are. Or just mute the computer and watch the football.

Countdown to Week 0: 7 days

LIBERTY PATRIOTS

Coach: Bryan Nixon (first year)

2012 record: 8-5 (3-2 Southwest Yosemite League, 4-2 home, lost 35-14 at Fresno-Central in Division I semifinals)
Average points: 28.8
Average points allowed: 20.1
Average rush yards: 167.3
Average rush yards allowed: 218.1
Average pass yards: 140.8
Average pass yards allowed: 81.9
Best win: Liberty 25, Clovis 23
Worst loss: Stockdale 35, Liberty 17
*—yardage figures are from MaxPreps and are only used if at least half of games are available. Take them with a grain of salt. Figure could be skewed depending on which games, if any, are missing

Key players: Josh Medina, sr, QB; Anthony Mariscal, jr, RB/DB; Justin Nieto, sr, LB; P.J. Brown, sr, OL/DL; Joseph Hurtado, sr, OL/DL

Key losses: Corbin Jountti, RB/DB; Cole Mazza, OL; Kenny Davis, WR; Christian Sinnott, DB; Darren Adjei, LB; Derek Frost, LB

Offense: The idea of Josh Medina, a mobile guy with a good arm, slinging around the ball in a Bryan Nixon offense certainly sounds enticing. Bear with me on this one, but Medina calls to mind Doug Flutie — dark hair peeking out under his helmet, long towel hanging from his waist, gunslinger always on the run — and that's certainly not a bad thing. Just take a look at his über-efficient numbers from last year: 1,831 yards, 18 touchdowns, 3 interceptions. It's worth noting, however, that Liberty really doesn't have all that much coming back from this unit. In fact, other than Medina, only Ross Puskarich at tight end, and Anthony Mariscal and P.J. Brown, both part-time starters in 2012, return with any real level of experience. The backfield should be fine with Medina and Mariscal, who ran for 468 yards and 8 TDs on a healthy 6.6 yards per carry average. And the new receivers looked good during summer passing league. The major question that remains, then, is the offensive line. If newcomers there get the job done, this will be a big-production unit under Nixon's wide-open offense.

Defense: Liberty had four defenders a year ago with more than 100 tacklers, and all four have graduated. That's a ton of takedowns to replace. Start with Justin Nieto, who had 87 tackles and four sacks and steps into a leading role on this year's unit. Joseph Hurtado, a returner on the defensive line, should be productive, too, but the experience level drops off considerably from there. It's safe to say the Patriots need some players to step into big roles in a hurry. Good for them that several really good athletes are available. Start with Tyson Brewer and Hanz Harker, a couple of names you might know from baseball, as defensive backs, and move on to Nick Bustos on the line and Brandon Muniz at linebacker. Liberty's defense was traditionally one of Kern County's best under Tony Mills; Nixon only really needs to keep that train moving.

Outlook: It sent shockwaves across Kern County when Nixon left Centennial, his home for the past 12 years, for its biggest rival, but there's no question the move is a great one for the Patriots. It comes at a good time, too, when Liberty has a returning quarterback who fits the Nixon mold, and several other talented — if inexperienced — athletes with which to surround him. There have been forecasts all summer saying this is the team that will challenge perennial favorite Bakersfield and defending champion Frontier in the Southwest Yosemite League, and that could certainly be the case. Several productive juniors were key to the Patriots' surprise run past top seed Clovis into the Division I section semfinals a year ago, and the 2013 schedule is mostly manageable early, giving time for younger players to develop. At the same time, there is no doubt that Liberty is thin on experienced guys, especially up front. What happens if an injury or two exacerbates the problem? Nixon is one of the section's best coaches, and so he'll have a competitive team, maybe even a championship-level team. But I'm not ready to proclaim that just yet. Good team, yes. Great team? TBD.

Quotable: "Our expectation, and I don't think it changes because we're new here, is that we want to win football games and teach kids about character. We want to win ballgames doing it. They've been very coachable. It's a new system, so we have to be patient, but as we go, the expectation level goes up." — Nixon

Schedule: Aug. 30 Delano
Sept. 6 at Fresno-Central
Sept. 13 Tehachapi
Sept. 20 Clovis-Buchanan
Sept. 27 at Ridgeview
Oct. 4 BYE
Oct. 11 Bakersfield*
Oct. 18 Frontier*
Oct. 25 Stockdale*
Nov. 1 at Independence*
Nov. 8 at Centennial*
*—SWYL game

Prediction: 7-3, 3-2 SWYL

2013 HS football preview index
Aug. 1: 8-man schools
Aug. 2: Burroughs, Boron, Desert
Aug. 3: Rosamond, California City
Aug. 4: Frazier Mountain, Kern Valley
Aug. 5: McFarland, Delano, Kennedy
Aug. 6: Chavez
Aug. 6: Shafter
Aug. 7: Arvin
Aug. 7: Taft
Aug. 8: Wasco
Aug. 8: Bakersfield Christian
Aug. 9: Mira Monte
Aug. 10: Golden Valley
Aug. 11: South
Aug. 12: West
Aug. 13: Ridgeview
Aug. 14: North
Aug. 15: Foothill
Aug. 16: Highland
Aug. 17: East
Aug. 18: Tehachapi
Aug. 19: Garces
Aug. 20: Independence
Aug. 21: Centennial
Aug. 22: Stockdale

Tomorrow: Frontier

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