This time, the hare won.
No. 13 Paradise Valley used touchdown drives consuming nine and seven minutes to draw within 18-14 at No. 4 Peoria Liberty midway through the third quarter of Friday's Division III playoff opener on Friday.
That's when the Lions unleashed their hare, senior wide receiver Brandon Murphy, who took a pair of middle screens more than 40 yards for scores.
Murphy's second touchdown was set up by a forced fumble. Then, up 32-14, the Lions stripped the Trojans again and scored quickly. From there the Lions salted away a 46-28 victory.
"Our defense did a good job making them earn every yard. (Trojans senior quarterback Ryan) Finley makes great reads and puts the ball on the money. We had really good coverage," Liberty coach Dan Filleman said. "They're a good team. We had an all-around good effort."
After Paradise Valley (7-4) chewed up the first seven minutes of the third quarter and scored on senior fullback Devon Graffis' 3-yard touchdown run, the home team turned on the afterburners.
Three plays later senior quarterback Tyler Rogers tossed a middle screen to Murphy, who weaved through tacklers and hit second gear for a 51-yard touchdown.
"He's a special player. We want to get the ball in his hands," Filleman said. "If we get him the ball, you never know when he's going to pop one."
Then senior cornerback Gabe Garcia made the play of the night. Finley connected with favorite target Joey Gatewood on a slant, but after picking up 25 yards Garcia knocked the ball free. Junior safety Chad Bennet fell on the fumble at the Trojans' 43.
"I just wanted to stay with it," Garcia said. "The game plan we had was great and coaches put us in positions to succeed. They've got a good quarterback but we did a good job of containing them."
Right away, Liberty (10-1) ran the same screen on the other side of the field. This time, Murphy pivoted and simply blew past the defense for a 43-yard score and a 32-14 Lions lead.
"That's a play we run every week. Our line gets good downfield blocking and Tyler carries out the fake," Murphy said. "I just catch it and follow the blocks."
On the second play of the Trojans next drive, Finley hit junior Carl Westlund for a short gain. A host of Liberty defenders stopped him and stripped the ball, and Bennett recovered it again at the Trojans' 27.
Sophomore tailback Connor Masood cashed in when he scored on a 9-yard sweep.
Now down 39-14 with 1:47 left in the third quarter, the visitors were short on time. Finley's pinpoint passing continued to move the chains, but the turnovers robbed Paradise Valley of a chance to make a late-game charge behind their Boise State-bound quarterback.
It was too familiar for the Trojans. The teams went to the half tied at 24 in their Sept. 6 meeting at Paradise Valley. Then the Lions forced a pair of turnovers and won 65-31.
"We planned on keeping their offense off the field as much as we could. We did a good job of that until a couple of turnovers on our side of the field hurt us," Paradise Valley coach Donnie Yantis said. "It's deja-vu from the first game and at the exact same time of the game."
Finley tossed a screen to sophomore tailback Bailey Thompson, who scooted 10 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth.
Rogers answered by faking a bootleg and dashing up the middle for a 25-yard score to make it 46-20. Then Thompson capped the scoring on a four-yard run.
The Lions grabbed an early advantage. Masood's six-yard touchdown run put them up 6-0 in less than three minutes.
Then after a fourth down stop at the Trojans' 47, Filleman opened up the short passing game. Rogers tossed a conventional screen to Murphy and the senior completed a 10-yard touchdown. A missed two-point try left the lead at 12-0.
Liberty was forced to punt early in the second quarter and Paradise Valley launched the first of its clock-consuming drives. Finley directed 16-play, 80-yard drive that took more than nine minutes, whipping a quick six-yard slant to sophomore Brendon Best on the touchdown.
"Definitely their game plan was to keep our offense off the field, that was very evident," Filleman said. "They made some great plays and that's all Finley there."
In contrast, Liberty used Garcia's 24-yard kickoff return to strike back quickly. In 31 seconds the Lions responded as Rogers hit senior receiver Tanner White in stride for a 43-yard catch and run and an 18-7 advantage that held until halftime.
Rogers, Liberty's own Division I prospect, played efficiently. He connected on 10 of 16 attempts for 213 yard and four touchdowns, while rushing 10 times for 50 more.
Murphy was even more succinct when he on three of his four receptions, which covered 121 yards. The first-year football player, more known as a sprinter and basketball guard has taken on more of the big-play burden after recent season ending injuries to tailback Kyle Harms and receiver Caleb Robinson.
"We played this one for Kyle Harms. He went into surgery today," Murphy said. "Caleb, when he went down, was in my ear telling me I'd be fine."
Finley carved up Liberty on short- to medium-length completions but the Lions defense kept his receivers in front of them. Finley finished his high school career completing 26 of 43 attempts for 274 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
"Ryan's a once-in-a-lifetime guy as a quarterback," Yantis said. "I've been coaching for 17 years and we've never had a kid like him. Those seniors hung together for four years. After the game I told them 'In the big picture this game means nothing. It's what you take from this program through four year.' In the big picture, doing the right things in life is what it's about, so I'm proud of those guys."
Liberty 46, Paradise Valley 28
Paradise Valley 0 7 7 14 -- 28
Liberty 12 6 21 7 -- 46
L - Connor Masood 6 run (kick failed)
L - Brandon Murphy 10 pass from Tyler Rogers (run failed)
PV - Brendon Best 6 pass from Ryan Finley (Paeton Keller kick)
L - Tanner Willis 43 pass from Rogers (pass failed)
PV - Devon Graffis 3 run (Keller kick)
L - Murphy 51 pass from Rogers (Tyler Wyatt kick)
L - Murphy 3 pass from Rogers (Wyatt kick)
L - Masood 9 run (Wyatt kick)
PV - Bailey Thompson 10 pass from Finley (kick blocked)
L - Rogers 25 run (Wyatt kick)
PV - Thompson 4 run (Finley run)
FIRST DOWN: PV: 22; L: 11
PENALTIES-YARDS: PV: 7-67; L: 6-49
RUSHES-YARDS: PV: 31-120; L: 28-171
PASSING YARDS: PV: 274; L: 213
ATT-COMP-INT: PV: 27-43-0; L 10-16-0
FUMBLES-LOST: PV: 4-2; L: 0-0