Liberty fullback Christian Baker runs through the Coalinga line during Friday’s scrimmage. The Hawks open the season Friday at home against Firebaugh. (Tyler A. Takeda)
COALINGA — With the season opener on the horizon, the Liberty Hawks football team looked impressive in its scrimmage with the Coalinga Horned Toads.
The Hawks scored twice in the first session of the scrimmage Friday with the first team and added two more touchdowns in the second session with the second team.
“The kids that carried the football like to punish tacklers,” head coach Mike Nolte said. “They put the time in the weight room and they are big, powerful guys. Same with our big boys up front. They put a lot of work in and have grown a lot over the year. They got off the ball pretty good.”
Defensively, the Hawks held Coalinga to just one touchdown in the two sessions. They also recorded three quarterback sacks and held Coalinga to two or less yards on eight running plays.
“The defensive line has put in a lot of work in the weight room and it show,” Nolte said.
After four weeks of practicing and hitting each other, the Hawks were happy to hit shoulder pads with a player they didn’t know.
“Every team in the valley is probably like this,” Nolte said. “You go against each other for three or four weeks and you finally get to play somebody. They got excited about it. They are also smelling the beginning of the season and are anxious for it.”
The Hawks open the season Friday, hosting Firebaugh, a team they defeated 21-13 last year in a 6-5 season.
After running the ball on four of the scrimmage’s first five plays, Nolte started to work on the passing game that began with an eight-yard touchdown pass. Including the touchdown, quarterback Markie Brandt threw the ball on six of the next 10 plays, completing three for 38 yards.
“We saw that we could run the football against this team,” Nolte said. “I wanted to see us throw the ball a little bit and see some specific things. We wanted our quarterback to make the proper throw and get it into the right spot. We wanted our receivers to run the proper route.”
Nolte even worked the passing game into the scrimmage’s first-and-goal situation, ending the session with a touchdown pass.
“Overall, execution is going to be a constant work in progress,” Nolte said. “We can always improve on that. The enthusiasm was better tonight than it has been. We need to continue to get better as a team and come together as a group to continue to keep pushing forward.”
Nolte knows that Firebaugh provides some challenges, but hopes to keep moving ahead. “Firebaugh is going to be a team ready to play against us and we’re going to be ready, too.”
The Hawks have a two-game winning streak against the Eagles after continuing the series after Liberty left the Northwest Sierra League in 2007.