Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Liberty’s Kaleb Roth turns the corner during one of his 12 carries during Friday’s win. Roth rushed for a career high 222 yards and scored two touchdowns against Washington Union.
EASTON — The Liberty Hawks handed their business and set up a North Sequoia League showdown with the Kerman Lions on Friday for the league championship.
The Hawks put away the Washington Union-Easton Panthers last week to set up this week’s showdown. The Hawks scored four first half touchdowns and invoked the running clock in a 41-10 victory in John Ventura Stadium.
Meanwhile, the Lions made easy work of the Sierra-Tollhouse Chieftains to set up the showdown between the team’s two 2-0 teams.
“That’s all tonight did was make that one bigger,” head coach Mike Nolte said.
Nolte and the Hawks were fearful of the Panthers and their athletes, however, Nolte’s athletes were up to the challenge.
“They are athletic,” Nolte said. “They have speed. They showed what they could do. I think we won the battle up front. That was the difference.”
The offensive line of tackles Francisco Rojas and Adam Pearce, guards Nick Hayes and Bradley Wallace, center Harrison Caetano and tight end Colton Cardoza helped the Hawks gain 460 yards on the ground, fourth most in school history and the third game of more than 450 yards this season.
“We have to be physical to be successful,” Nolte said. “We’re not one of these teams that can toss it around and let our athletes make plays. We need our big, physical kids to make plays and that’s how it works out.”
Kaleb Roth led the Hawks with 222 yards rushing, third most in school history, and two touchdowns. Brother Wyatt Roth averaged almost 20 yard a rush with 136 yards rushing on just seven carries and two touchdowns.
“We want to get our guys into open space,” Nolte said. “They are tough to handle once they get past the line of scrimmage. They are big, strong kids and they run hard.”
The Panthers opened the game on a 12-play drive for 58 yards, converting a pair of fourth downs along the way. However, the Liberty defense held up inside the 15-yard line.
Cardoza stuffed Washington quarterback Victor Nava for a gain of two on third-and-four to force a fourth down. Yoni Salas drilled a 24-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
The Hawks got the ball and Rylan Howe gained 17 on the first play. Kaleb Roth then went for 63-yards up the middle for a touchdown just 28 seconds after the Panthers made their field goal.
After a Panthers’ punt, the Hawks methodically drove down the field. Roth finished the 10-play, 81-yard drive with a 12-yard run behind the blocks of Wallace and Cardoza. The key play in the drive was a 29-yard run by Wyatt Roth.
The Panthers drove down the field and turned the ball over on downs at the Liberty 20-yard line.
It took the Hawks just three plays to add another touchdown. Kaleb Roth rushed for 25 yards and another 15 yards was added on because of a face mask penalty. After a five-yard gain by Hoelzel, Wyatt Roth scored on a 35-yard touchdown run for a 21-3 lead in the second half.
The Panthers then went on a nine-play drive, converting three third downs, but eventually gave the ball up on third-and-21 after Keaton Ellis picked off Nava.
The hawks went on the attack with Kaleb Roth gaining 15 yards on the first play of the drive. Roth gained nine yards on third down for a first down.
The Hawks faced just three third downs in the game and converted three of them.
On the next play, Hoelzel rolled to his right and found a wide open Cardoza for a 28-yard touchdown catch-and-run on Hoelzel’s only pass of the night. Liberty led 28-3 after Bradley Moon’s fourth of five extra points of the night with 40 seconds left in the first half.
The Hawks opened the second half with a 47-yard run by Kaleb Roth. After a six-yard gain by Howe, Wyatt Roth finished the drive with a 39-yard run for a 35-3 lead just 50 seconds into the second half.
The Panthers, behind running back Zorian Temple, went on their longest drive of the game, a 16-play, 60-yard drive. Temple carried the ball on 11 of those plays for 47 yards.
However, on first down from the 20-yard line, Nava was flagged for intentional grounding after a hurry from Wyatt Roth.
Cardoza and Howe stuff Temple for a four-yard gain. Roth, who had his second 20 tackle game of the season, and Caetano stopped Temple for a gain of four. Nava threw incomplete on fourth down to turn the ball over.
“Their coach was trying to make a statement to his team by going to power,” Nolte said. “Their back is a hard runner. It was good our kids responded to that.”
On the first play following the long drive, Kaleb Roth gained 28 yards for a first down. Wyatt Roth gained 25 yards to the Panthers’ 27-yard line. Howe then gained 20-yards to the seven. Two plays later, Howe finished the drive with a one-yard run for a 41-3 third quarter lead to invoke the running clock.
The Panthers finished the scoring with a 13-yard pass completion against the Liberty reserves with four minutes left in the game.