Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Liberty running back Kaleb Roth is taken down in Sierra territory in Friday’s victory over the Chieftains. Roth led the Hawks in record-setting rushing perofrmance for a 48-21 North Sequoia League victory.
TOLLHOUSE — The Hawks opened the game gashing through the Sierra defense and didn’t stop until the final whistle in a 48-21 victory to open the North Sequoia League season.
Liberty rushed for an even 500 yards in Friday’s victory, jumping out to a 27-6 lead to record its fourth straight victory.
“That’s a great number,” head coach Mike Nolte said. “It’s an attribute to our offensive line. We prepared pretty well this week. I thought that the play we kept running would go and it did. They worked hard this week. We got up 21-0 and that cushion was pretty safe. We were able to keep scoring.”
The Hawks averaged 10.6 yards per carry and five of the six ball carriers had a run of 25 yards or more. Kaleb Roth led the Hawks with 142 yards, including a season-high 68-yard run on the game’s second play. Christian Baker scored three touchdowns and rushed for 135 yards. Wyatt Roth rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown and also caught two passes for 24 yards and another touchdown.
Sierra tried to stay in the game and rolled up 302 yards of offense, but averaged 4.3 yards per play. The yardage doesn’t include a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
“I give a lot of credit to Sierra and a job their coaching staff is doing,” Nolte said. “They strung together some drives. They have some good players and know how to get them the ball. We could have played with more intensity. We had that little lull in the middle of the game and that hurt us a little bit.”
Shane Maldonado rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown against the Hawks defense that allowed only one 100-plus yard rusher this season.
“I expected our kids to be hungry,” Nolte said. “We came out like we were hungry, but let off the gas a little bit. Good players are going to take advantage of that.”
After four straight wins, the Hawks prepare for the toughest part of their schedule, beginning with Friday’s Homecoming showdown against Washington Union-Easton that will be televised on KFRE-59. The Hawks then close the home season against Kerman on Oct. 28 and close out the regular season Nov. 5 at Chowchilla.
“This part of our schedule is going to be the toughest three teams we’ve played all year,” Nolte said. “They are going to be battles on the field and it’s going to be fun.”
Two plays into the game, Kaleb Roth took the hand-off off the left side and found running room behind pulling linemen Ethan Clark and Corey Hiatt. By the time he was dragged down from behind, he ran the ball inside the 10-yard line for a 68-yard gain.
Two plays later, Wyatt Roth ran behind Clark for a seven-yard touchdown run just 1:21 into the game.
Sierra drove on the Hawks in its first possession, but two incomplete passes turned the ball over on downs at the Liberty 16.
Markie Brandt hit Roth for a 12-yard completion for the first of his two pass completions (both to Roth) in the game for a first down.
Kaleb Roth went for 21 yards and Baker followed with a 25-yard run up the middle to get to the Sierra 21-yard line. Baker got a first down to the nine-yard line and Brandt kept the ball himself for a nine-yard touchdown run.
After another Sierra punt, the Hawks drove down the field behind a 13-yard run from Kaleb Roth and a 29-yard run from Christian Baker to the Sierra 12-yard line. Two plays later, Brandt found a wide open Wyatt Roth in the middle of the field for a touchdown and a 21-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Sierra drove to the Liberty 17-yard line, but the Hawks defense stiffened again. The Chieftains were hit with two penalties and threw three incomplete passes. On fourth down, Roth came up to make an open-field tackle after a five-yard gain to turn the ball over on downs at the Liberty 27.
After a Baker nine-yard run, Wyatt Roth broke off a 41-yard run to the Sierra 28-yard line. Kaleb Roth ran for six yards and Baker gained seven for a first down. Roth then gained eight yards to the two-yard line. Baker scored on the next play for the touchdown.
Hamman’s extra point was blocked for his first miss in three games spanning 25 straight makes, but the Hawks held a 27-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Sierra’s Cameron Brady found an opening and returned the kick 95 yards for a touchdown.
The Chieftains then recovered an onsides kick, but the Hawks defense held despite getting called for a pass interference penalty. From the Liberty 14, Sierra quarterback was stuffed by Nick Hayes for a loss of one. Maldonado was corralled by Brett Cazares after a two-yard gain. Javier Lopez sacked quarterback Tristan Wilson for a loss of six and Wilson threw incomplete on fourth down to give the ball back to the Hawks near the end of the first half.
The Chieftains took the second half kickoff and marched 69-yards for a touchdown, highlighted by a 38-yard run by Maldonado on the second play of the drive. Maldonado finished the drive with a four-yard touchdown run and cut Liberty’s lead to 27-14.
The Hawks were forced to punt on their next possession, but the defense forced a Sierra three-and-out. After two incomplete passes, Lopez and Baker stuffed Maldonado for a three-yard gain.
Liberty’s next drive was helped by a questionable pass interference penalty on Sierra. However, karma must have kicked in because the Hawks were penalized twice in the drive, including one that wiped out a 49-yard touchdown run and another wiped out a 17-yard first down run.
On first-and-15, Baker, Tahner Green and Kaleb Roth got the first down. Brandt carried twice to the two-yard line and Roth finished the drive with a touchdown and a 34-14 lead with 30 seconds left in the third quarter.
Sierra got an initial first down on its next drive, but Wyatt Roth made a jumping interception to stop the Chieftains and set up Liberty’s next scoring drive.
On fourth down, Brandt sent a punt to Sierra, but the ball hit off a Chieftains defender. Greyson Hoelzel picked up the ball and Liberty had a first down and didn’t let the second chance go to waste.
Wyatt Roth gained nine yards on first down. Kaleb Roth carried for three and a first down and then 19 yards to the eight-yard line. Baker finished the drive with his second touchdown of the night for a 41-14 lead.
Nick Hayes and Kaleb Roth stuffed Maldonado for a six-yard loss. Green then stopped Maldonado for a loss of one to force a punt.
Green carried for 25 yards on the first play of the drive and Baker went up the middle for a 30-yard touchdown, his third of the game, for a 48-14 lead.
Tackles by Wyatt and Kaleb Roth and Brandt turned the ball over on downs. However, Liberty fumble led to a Maldonado touchdown reception for the 48-21 final score.