Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Liberty quarterback Greyson Hoelzel throws a pass during Friday’s victory over Chowchilla. Hoelzel threw two touchdowns and returned an interception for another.
The Liberty Hawks football team closed the regular season with a shutout victory over the Chowchilla Tribe for their biggest victory over their North Sequoia League rivals.
The Hawks limited Chowchilla to just 145 yards of total offense, forced two turnovers and invoked the running clock in the fourth quarter for a 35-0 victory.
“It’s great to get the shutout,” head coach Mike Nolte said. “It was a great defensive effort. To get a shutout against a good offensive team like that is something to be proud of. The kids stepped up after dealing with some adversity this week.”
Nolte said that getting better on defense was a point of emphasis during practice after giving up 565 yards the week before in a loss to the Kerman Lions.
“That was a high point of emphasis this week to improve on our defensive effort,” Nolte said. “We played a more aggressive scheme and their offense allows that. We needed to play better this week.”
The Hawks grinding out the clock during two drives. One drive went for 17 plays and 87 yards while another drive lasted 10 plays for 80 yards.
“There were some big plays during that drive,” Nolte said. “Chunking yards was huge and figuring out something that works. Their defense has a lot of moving parts and it was hard to scheme up. We figured it out a little bit. It was nice to see the kids execute the adjustment at halftime.”
Nolte credited the work of quarterback Greyson Hoelzel. He accounted for three touchdowns, including a 73-yard interception return for a touchdown.
“Our No. 5 had a great game tonight,” Nolte said. “Those are things that aren’t worked on a lot. His athleticism and awareness makes a lot of that happen. We’re fortunate to have him.”
Kaleb Roth rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown and Wyatt Roth scored a rushing and receiving touchdown.
The Hawks open the Div. IV playoffs Thursday night. Liberty earned the No. 5 seed and will host No. 12 Monache with the winner to face No. 4 Kerman the following week.
Liberty was forced to punt on the first possession of the game. However, while lining up as the punter, Hoelzel saw Wyatt Roth uncovered in the slot. On the snap, Hoelzel completed a pass to Roth for an eight-yard gain. Roth eluded a tackler and outran the rest of the Chowchilla defense for a 56-yard catch-and-run.
The Tribe then went on a 12-play drive, converting two third downs before stalling inside the Liberty 10-yard line. On fourth-and-four from the Liberty seven, Charlie Smith stuffed Chowchilla for a loss of three to give the ball to the Hawks.
The two teams traded a pair of possessions before the Hawks took over on its own 13-yard line. From there, the Hawks overcame three 10-yard penalties and drove down the field.
Kaleb Roth carried for 11 and a first down. Hoelzel gained 11 on third-and-11. Colton Cardoza carried for three on third-and-two.
Hoelzel carried for seven to the 10-yard line and carried for six on third-and-one. On third-and-goal from the three, Helzel rolled to his right, eluded a defender and lobbed a pass to Cardoza in the end zone for the touchdown with seven seconds left in the half.
The Tribe converted on fourth down to open the second half. On third-and-nine, Hoelzel stepped in front of a Cody Woolsey pass for an interception. He went untouched the rest of the way for a 73-yard touchdown and a 21-0 lead with 8:27 left in the third quarter.
After a Chowchilla three-and-out, the Hawks started to break off long runs. Kaleb Roth carried for 11 yards. Cardoza went for 14 and Hoelzel carried for 13 and another first down.
After a holding penalty, Kaleb Roth gained 16 yards on second-and-15 to the 31-yard line.
On fourth-and-five, Hoelzel hit Cardoza on a quick hook for the first down. Cardoza turned and split the Chowchilla defense before getting tackled at the one-yard line. Wyatt Roth scored on the next play for the touchdown and a 28-0 lead.
On the next drive, Nick Hayes sacked Woolsey and forced a fumble. Cardoza landed on it for the Hawks.
Liberty then drove 63 yards on just seven plays to find the end zone. Wyatt Roth started the drive with a 25-yard run. Kaleb Roth gained four for a first down.
On third-and-10, Roth ran for 15 yards and a first down. On the next play, Roth went off the right side of the line and found the end zone for a 35-0 lead with six minutes left in the game.
The Tribe drove to the Liberty 17-yard line before turning the ball over on downs as the Hawks took a knee to end the game.