Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Liberty’s Kaleb Roth lunges into the end zone for one of his two touchdowns in Friday’s 56-26 loss to the Kerman Lions.
KERMAN — In a battle between the two top teams in the North Sequoia League, the Kerman Lions proved too much for the Liberty Hawks to secure at least a tie for the league championship with a 56-26 victory.
Kerman quarterback and Wyoming recruit Sean Chambers was the key for the Hawks in getting a victory. Unfortunately, Chambers accounted for 353 yards, threw for two touchdowns and ran for another two.
“Containing Chambers was the key,” head coach Mike Nolte said. “We just didn’t take care of what we needed to take care of.”
The Hawks kept pace with the Lions, but had trouble containing Kerman’s offense. The Lions scored on eight straight possessions after the Hawks took a 7-0 lead on a botched punt snap.
The Hawks trailed
21-19, but a key holding penalty on a touchdown run resulted in a 14-point swing.
“We scored that touchdown and the holding call hurt us a little bit,” Nolte said. “It was back and forth. Maybe it was a game-changer, but they were better than us up front.”
Kerman amassed 565 yards of total offense, including 349 yards on the ground.
Liberty kept pace on the ground with 342 yards, but Chambers was the difference. He passed for 216 yards while
Liberty passed for two yards.
Christopher Acosta also rushed for 167 yards and scored four touchdowns on the ground and scored another receiving touchdown.
Meanwhile, Kaleb Roth rushed for 186 yards and two touchdowns for the Hawks, including three more runs of 20-or more yards with a long of 61 yards. He also tied the school record with 23 tackles in the game. His brother, Wyatt, scored a touchdown on Liberty’s first play of the game and rushed for 111 yards on just 12 carries.
On the opening drive of the game, Kerman was hit with a personal foul penalty and faced a third-and-22. Forced to punt from their 21-yard line, the snap back to Acosta bounced past him and into the end zone. Rylan Howe jumped on the ball for the touchdown just a minute into the game.
The Lions then went on their longest drive of the game, a 12-play drive for 64 yards. They converted two third downs and scored on a fourth-and-four when Chambers scrambled away from pressure and found Acosta out of the backfield. He eluded a tackler and scored on a 17-yard pass.
On the next offensive play, Wyatt Roth went round the left side, cut up the middle and outran the Kerman defenders for a 67-yard touchdown run for a 13-6 lead.
The Lions, who went 7-of-13 on third downs, converted two third downs on an eight-play, 50-yard drive, capped by a seven yard Acosta touchdown run.
The Hawks answered with an eight-play drive of their own. Kaleb Roth started the drive with a 14-yard run and a face mask penalty added 15 more yards. Roth then gained six on fourth-and-three.
Four plays later, on fourth-and-one, Roth went up the middle for a 20-yard touchdown run. The point after was blocked and Liberty led 19-13.
The Lions only needed four plays to score the go-ahead touchdown on a 29-yard run by Chambers. Chambers also scored the two-point conversion for a 21-19 lead with 8:49 left in the first half.
Another personal foul penalty helped the Liberty drive, adding 15-yards to Wyatt Roth’s 10-yard run. Rylan Howe gained 14 yards to the 13-yard line.
Kaleb Roth scored on a 13-yard run. However, a holding penalty wiped out the touchdown and the Hawks turned the ball over on downs.
The Lions then scored on a 28-yard run from Acosta to take a 28-19 lead with 5:30 left in the first half.
After a Liberty punt to the Kerman seven-yard line, the Lions only needed six plays to find the end zone. Chambers completed a 28-yard pass and ran for another 10 yards. He completed another pass for 38 yards and Acosta finished the drive with a nine-yard touchdown run with 46 seconds left in the half for a 35-19 lead.
The Hawks came out of halftime with a seven-play, 56-yard drive for a touchdown. Wyatt Roth rushed for 13 yards and a first down and gained five more on a third-and-one.
Kaleb Roth finished the drive with a 20-yard touchdown run and the extra point cut Kerman’s lead to 35-26 with 9:29 left in the third quarter.
Kerman answered with a seven-play, 63-yard drive for a 42-26 lead and a 58-yard pass play for a 49-26 lead.
The Lions closed the scoring with a three-yard run by Chambers for the 56-26 final.
The Hawks close out the regular season Friday hosting the Chowchilla Tribe at 7 p.m.