IMG Academy‘s Antoine Whitner Jr. (78), Liberty‘s A.J. Maluia (58), Ezra Thomhoon (5) and IMG Academy‘s Nolan Smith (42) watch a Liberty fumble that was returned for an IMG touchdown at Liberty High School in Henderson on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. IMG Academy won 35-0. Brett Le Blanc Las Vegas Review-JournalJared Tufele (27), A.J. Maluia (58) and Lehi Ausage (24), of Liberty High School, perform the Haka before a football game against IMG Academy at Liberty High School in Henderson on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. IMG Academy leads at halftime 21-0. Brett Le Blanc Las Vegas Review-JournalIMG Academy running back Noah Cain (7) carries the ball during a game against Liberty High School at Liberty High School in Henderson on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. IMG Academy leads at halftime 21-0. Brett Le Blanc Las Vegas Review-JournalLiberty quarterback Isaac Haina (13) throws a pass during a game against IMG Academy at Liberty High School in Henderson on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. IMG Academy leads at halftime 21-0. Brett Le Blanc Las Vegas Review-JournalLiberty quarterback Isaac Haina (13) throws a pass during a game against IMG Academy at Liberty High School in Henderson on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. IMG Academy leads at halftime 21-0. Brett Le Blanc Las Vegas Review-JournalIMG Academy running back Noah Cain (7) breaks a tackle from Liberty‘s Zyrus Fiaseu (30) at Liberty High School in Henderson on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. IMG Academy leads at halftime 21-0. Brett Le Blanc Las Vegas Review-JournalLiberty‘s Zyrus Fiaseu (30) stares down IMG Academy‘s running back Noah Cain (7) after Cain scored a touchdown at Liberty High School in Henderson on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. IMG Academy leads at halftime 21-0. Brett Le Blanc Las Vegas Review-JournalLiberty‘s Austin Fiaseu (10) tackles IMG Academy quarterback Bryson Lucero (12) at Liberty High School in Henderson on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. IMG Academy leads at halftime 21-0. Brett Le Blanc Las Vegas Review-JournalIMG Academy kick returner Chandler Mcgruder (32) recovers a muffed punt under Liberty defensive back Isiah Revis (20) at Liberty High School in Henderson on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. IMG Academy leads at halftime 21-0. Brett Le Blanc Las Vegas Review-JournalIMG Academy running back Trey Sanders (6) Scores a touchdown at Liberty High School in Henderson on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. IMG Academy leads at halftime 21-0. Brett Le Blanc Las Vegas Review-JournalLiberty head coach Rich Muraco watches his team warm up before a game against IMG Academy at Liberty High School in Henderson on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. IMG Academy won 35-0. Brett Le Blanc Las Vegas Review-JournalIMG Academy offensive lineman Charles Turner (75) leads his team onto the field before a game against Liberty High School at Liberty High School in Henderson on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. IMG Academy won 35-0. Brett Le Blanc Las Vegas Review-JournalLiberty‘s Zyrus Fiaseu (30) carries the ball during a game against IMG Academy at Liberty High School in Henderson on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. IMG Academy won 35-0. Brett Le Blanc Las Vegas Review-JournalLiberty center Jeremiah Taiese (75) gets ready to snap the ball during a game against IMG Academy at Liberty High School in Henderson on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. IMG Academy won 35-0. Brett Le Blanc Las Vegas Review-JournalIMG Academy‘s Trey Sanders (6), and Liberty‘s Trey Cain (36), top, battle for a muffed punt at Liberty High School in Henderson on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. IMG Academy won 35-0. Brett Le Blanc Las Vegas Review-JournalLiberty head coach Rich Muraco talks to a referee at Liberty High School in Henderson on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. IMG Academy won 35-0. Brett Le Blanc Las Vegas Review-JournalIMG Academy wide receiver Michael Redding III, (11) scores a touchdown at Liberty High School in Henderson on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. IMG Academy won 35-0. Brett Le Blanc Las Vegas Review-JournalLiberty quarterback Kanyon Stoneking (7) is chased by IMG Academy‘s Bruce Seton III (35) during a game at Liberty High School in Henderson on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. IMG Academy won 35-0. Brett Le Blanc Las Vegas Review-JournalLiberty‘s Kyle Beaudry (4) is tackled by IMG Academy defenseman Jayden Curry (15) during a game at Liberty High School in Henderson on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. IMG Academy won 35-0. Brett Le Blanc Las Vegas Review-Journal

Kevin Kelley of Pulaski Academy in Arkansas made a name for himself as the high school football coach who never punts.

That strategy might not have been a bad idea for Liberty on Friday night.

Miscues on three Liberty punts led to 21 first-half points, and IMG Academy (Florida) rolled to a 35-0 road win over the Patriots.

“Our special teams, which has been really the strength for us the first two weeks, were just absolutely atrocious,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “I’ll take full blame for that, because I’m the special teams coach.”

The special teams mistakes started on the first Liberty possession when Toa Tai’s punt was blocked and the Ascenders (3-0), ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today, recovered at the Patriots 47.

Three plays later, David Baldwin tossed a swing pass to Trey Sanders for an 8-yard touchdown and 7-0 lead with 8:42 left in the first quarter.

Muraco turned to kicker Dillon Fedor on the next punt attempt, but the snap sailed over his head and he covered the ball at the Liberty 1. Baldwin scored on the next play for a 14-0 lead with 6:26 left in the quarter.

“It’s kind of demoralizing, because you know that you’re playing the top-ranked team in the country, or one of the top teams in the country, and you’ve got to play a perfect game or a near-perfect game,” Muraco said.

Things didn’t get any better the next time Liberty (1-2) tried to punt, as Fedor mishandled the snap and IMG’s Michael Redding recovered at the Patriots’ 8.

That set up a 1-yard TD run by Noah Cain for a 21-0 lead with 8:22 left in the first half.

“If it wasn’t for that, they would have had to at least earn their touchdowns instead of giving the short field to them,” Muraco said.

“It’s another reason why I like these kind of games. Because against a lesser team, you can make those kind of mistakes, you can still rally and win. You spot a team like that 14 points (in the) first quarter because of special teams, it’s really tough to come back from.”

Liberty also struggled to move the football. The Patriots were without starting quarterback Lonenoa Faoa (concussion). Leading rusher Zyrus Fiaseu was limited to three carries and played with a cast on his broken right hand. Liberty finished with 107 yards of offense.

“Now that we’re done with the national schedule and we get into the local teams — we’ve got a tough game coming up against Desert Pines — I feel like our offense will find its rhythm,” Muraco said. “Noa was out today, he’ll be back for Desert Pines. A big part of our plan the whole week was to run Zyrus, and he broke his hand on Wednesday and that kind of changed everything.”

The Patriots were solid defensively. Along with the three touchdowns after special teams mistakes, the Ascenders also returned a fumble for a touchdown, so the Liberty defense essentially allowed one score.

“We want to play these kind of teams because we want to challenge our kids, and we want to see who’s going to step up, who’s going to compete,” Muraco said. “Obviously they’re on another level. They’re a prep school. They get kids from all over the country that come in and play football there.”

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prep sports editor Damon Seiters at or. Follow on Twitter.

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