Liberty got two early scores and was out to a 21-0 nothing lead before Juanita clawed their way back to 21 all early in the fourth quarter.
That's when Jake Bainton showed why he was the best athlete on the field, taking the ensuing kickoff back 69 yards and then catching the go-ahead touchdown in the back corner of the endzone.
Liberty came into the game ranked third in the state while Juanita was ranked seventh heading into the contest.
Here's a look at the top performers and some players to keep an eye on down the road...
Liberty WR/DB Jake Bainton (2011) - As I stated above, Bainton was a man among boys out there. He's a really good looking athlete who is easily his listed 6-3, 210 pounds. He runs really well and has a knack for always being around the ball. Ultimately he impressed me more as a return man and receiver than as a safety, but I think he could eventually turn into a solid defensive player at the next level. He caught two touchdown passes and had an interception while also having the big kickoff return to set up the winning touchdown which he also caught. I don't see him getting an offer from Pac 10 schools this early in the recruiting cycle, but he should have a few in his back pocket after the May evaluation period.
Liberty QB Trey Wheeler (2011) - He and Bainton will be one of the top wide receiver/quarterback combos in 2010 and right now they aren't far off from what Jake Heaps and Kasen Williams can do for Skyline. If he were taller, we'd be talking about Wheeler being one of the top passers on the west coast. He has a quick release and he put a couple of passes right on the money that were dropped. He's a decent athlete, able to move around enough to be a threat with his legs, but he needs to be a little better at making quicker decisions. A couple of times he waited just a split second too long and it allowed a DB to make a break on a pass that would have been completed had he thrown on time. Now, is that because he doesn't trust all of his wideouts right now? That's a question that only he could answer, but as far as an overall QB prospect I think he could end up being pretty solid although I'm not sure he's Pac 10 worthy...at least at this point.
Other Liberty players to keep an eye on: RB/DB Chandler Jenkins (2011).
Juanita RB Jeremiah Laufasa (2011) - Tough, hard-nosed runner who really pounded the Liberty defense all night. He really runs behind his pads well and gets good push. He's also really good at finding a slight opening and busting through it. I had only seen him play linebacker before, so this was a nice change and he really looked like he relished contact. Laufasa didn't play much linebacker and from what I've heard he prefers running back so that's where he's probably going to play at the next level. I just don't see him playing at the Pac 10 level, but he's certainly the equal of a lot of backs I've seen in the WAC. He could be a decent fullback in the right system.
Juanita OL/DL Cody Treddenbarger (2011) - We've been following Cody since he was a two-ay starter as a freshman at Evergreen High School back in 2007. He's super-strong and he just likes to get after it. On Friday he played guard most of the time, but usually he's at center. He's a great leader and really uses his leverage well since he's just a little over six-feet tall. He's also a really good nose tackle, getting penetration using his good lower-body strength. On a couple of plays he knifed through the gap between the center and guard and ended up stuffing the play all by himself. Treddenbarger has a motor that never stops and he works hard at his craft. If he were a little bigger I'd say he was a borderline Pac 10 guy, but because of some size limitations I could see him ending up at a WAC or Big Sky school and being a really solid four-year starter.
Juanita OL Nathan Dean (2012) - Juanita head coach Shaun Tarantola told me about Dean back in the summer and then reminded me about him on our radio show two weeks ago. Dean is a really good-looking athlete who just needs to bulk up to be the kind of player he's shown he has the potential to be. He's long and lanky, but you can see in his legs and shoulders he has the build to be a 290-pounder by the time he's a senior. He played right tackle the whole night and held his own against a good Liberty front-seven. He's definitely a player to keep an eye on.
Other Juanita players to keep an eye on: RB/DB Andre Casino (2011); QB Derek Kaufman (2011); OL Sam Shirley (2011)(injured).
Friday Night Lights: Juanita at Liberty
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