Liberty High School Lions

The Liberty High School football team won its first-ever North Coast Section (NCS) title in 2017.

Now the Lions have set their sights on capturing a state crown in 2018.

Liberty (11-2 last year) returns with a host of talent on both sides of the ball, including seven starters on offense and six on defense, said head coach Ryan Partridge, who guided the Lions to a thrilling 37-0 triumph over rival Freedom in the 2017 NCS title game in his first season.

Highly touted quarterback Jay Butterfield, undefeated in four varsity starts, will guide the offense alongside returning all-leaguers – running back Tyerell Sturges-Cofer (1,128 yards last season) and wide receiver Sione Vaki (37 receptions for 809 yards and 12 touchdowns last year).

Junior Peyton Borrelli, who stepped up in the playoffs last year, and relative newcomer senior Thomas Vi will serve as the team’s tight ends.

Returning starters Payton Zdroik (an all-state player), Reese Watkins-Nelson and Josh McKey will anchor the offensive line with Matthew Groover and rising star Akili Calhoun.

Wide receivers Jordyn Turner – whose stock appears to be rising – Jerrin Easter-Williams, Adrik Lamar and Cody Muth and running backs John Fio, Darrion Bartley and Brenden Bell also figure prominently in the Lions’ plans in what is adding up to be another explosive and talented Liberty team.

Liberty also returns a handful of all-league defensive players in linebackers Nicholas Einess (the 2017 Bay Valley Athletic League defensive player of the year) and Ethan Dumond, defensive lineman Brock Hammer and defensive back Bell.

Borrelli, Zdroik, Watkins-Nelson and Hammer will hold down the defensive line. Dumond, Einess, Sturges-Cofer and Bartley will serve as linebackers, and Vaki and Bell will anchor the safety position. Fio is expected to serve as one corner, but a battle is on to fill the remaining corner position, Partridge said.

The Lions’ preseason schedule includes quality squads in Vacaville, Gilroy, McClymonds, Rocklin and Cardinal Newman.

Liberty Lions 2018 Schedule

Aug. 17, 7 p.m. vs. Vacaville

Aug. 25, 4 p.m. vs. Gilroy (at St. Francis High School in Mountain View)

Aug. 31, 7:15 p.m. at McClymonds

Sept. 7, 7:30 p.m. vs. Rocklin

Sept. 14, 7 p.m. at Cardinal Newman

Sept. 21, 7 p.m. vs. Deer Valley*

Sept. 28, 7 p.m. vs. Freedom*

Oct. 5, 7 p.m. at Antioch*

Oct. 19, 7 p.m. at Pittsburg*

Oct. 26, 7 p.m. vs. Heritage*

*BVAL games