No matter what happens from here, it’s already been a college football season -- and career for that matter --worth savoring for one local player in particular.
Former Lake Norman High School player Nate Pena is presently a participating part of a history-making season on the Liberty University football team.
Fresh off last weekend’s dominating, 54-14 triumph over Western Carolina that marked the first meeting between the longtime rivals since 2008, the Flames improved to the unblemished, 8-0 mark for their highest-ever ranking in the updated Associated Press college football poll.
Liberty advanced its program’s previous best by one more position in the latest poll by reaching No. 21. The Flames also remained an all-high high of No. 22 in the somewhat related Amway Coaches Poll.
Both are career-bests for Liberty.
It also allows Pena to reach a career-best placement as well.
The redshirt junior fills a position as an offensive lineman for the team. He stands 6-foot-1 and weighs in at 315 pounds. After failing to register any on-field playing time as a second-season freshman, Pena redshirted after seeing some playing time during the final two games of the season during his official rookie season campaign.
Pena arrived at Liberty following a career at Lake Norman. As a senior, he was a pivotal part of the Wildcats' only undefeated regular season in program history. His prep playing days were additionally highlighted during his sophomore season when he was a first-season member of a LNHS team that owned a 13-2 overall record and reached the semifinals of the state playoffs. The standard still stands as the most wins ever compiled during a single season by a Wildcats team.
The junior has appeared in multiple games so far this season with the Flames, including seeing some action in the most recent victory over Western Carolina.
Liberty has remained ranked in the top 25 poll for the last three weeks, another program first accounting for the longest such streak of being ranked in the polls since the 2015 season in the college game’s highest level.
The Flames are one of just three 8-0 teams ranked in the top 25 poll. LU also currently owns the nation’s second-longest overall win streak that stands at 10 games in a row dating back to the 2019 season. The win spree trails only the 14-game spree currently owned by No. 2-ranked Notre Dame.
This week, Liberty faces off against a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference for a third time when taking on N.C. State on Saturday night. It will mark the Flames’ first game to take place under the primetime lights when appearing in the scheduled 7:30 p.m. start on the Wolfpack’s home Carter-Finley Stadium site.
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