Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Liberty’s Kaleb Roth runs through a big hole created by Francisco Rojas (77) and Bradley Wallace (62) during Thursday’s loss. Roth averaged eight yards per carry and broke the school record with 266 yards rushing against the Marauders.
For the third year in a row, the Liberty Hawks football team lost is Div. III first round playoff game after falling to the Monache-Porterville Marauders, 50-28.
The fifth-seeded Hawks committed a team-high four turnovers and couldn’t keep momentum against the 13th seeded Marauders.
“Turnovers are part of the game,” head coach Mike Nolte said. “It was really uncharacteristic of us. It’s part of the game and it’s something to overcome. Unfortunately, we were playing a team that was good enough tonight to take advantage of those things. Things went bad and we couldn’t recover.”
Liberty running back Kaleb Roth made his last game in a Liberty uniform a memorable one. He carried the ball a career-high 32 times for a school record 269 yards. He averaged 8.4 yards per rush and scored two touchdowns, one on a 790-yard run. He broke the school record set by Brandon Graham of 233 yards 11 years ago.
“I can’t say enough about Kaleb,” Nolte said. “You’re talking about the heart and soul of our team. He represents it the way it should be represented. That part of him definitely resonates among the whole team. The team played with that kind of heart all year. I’m proud of all of them.”
Roth’s brother Wyatt gained 99 yards on 16 carries. Greyson Hoelzel and Colton Cardoza added touchdowns for the Hawks.
While Liberty gained 441 yards rushing, including 389 on the ground, the Marauders gained 478 yards and Marlon Johnson caught seven passes for 181 yards and four touchdowns.
However, the biggest enemy for the Hawks were the turnovers. The Hawks committed a season-high four (three fumbles and an interception), which led to three Monache touchdowns.
All season, the Hawks committed six turnovers (two fumbles and four interceptions) and fumbled five times. Thursday, they fumbled five times and lost three of those, including one on the two-yard line. Meanwhile, the Hawks had two turnovers and recovered an onside kick, but scored on just one.
“We gained some momentum as we were doing things,” Nolte said. “Then, something bad would happen. It wasn’t the bad where you don’t gain anything. It was bad where they got the ball.”
The Hawks forced a three-out-out and then went on offense for a nine-play drive to the eight-yard line, but Wyatt Roth lost five on fourth down.
Three plays later, Greyson Hoelzel picked off Monache quarterback Antonio Andrade. The Hawks gained just six yards over the next four plays and turned the ball over on downs.
Five plays later, on third-and-seven, Andreade hit Johnson on a quick out. Johnson made a defender miss and went the rest of the way to the end zone for a 52-yard touchdown with 4:28 left in the first quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Hawks fumbled and the Marauders recovered at the Liberty 22-yard line.
Six plays later, the Marauders hit paydirt for a quick 15-0 lead.
On the next play, Kaleb Roth went around the right side, got a block from Cardoza down the sideline, cut to the middle and outran the Monache defense for a 70-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 15-7 with three minutes left int eh first quarter.
After a trade in punts, Johnson, again, caught a quick out and, again, eluded a tackler and went 62 yards for a touchdown and a 22-7 lead with 10:47 left in the first half.
The Marauders then went on a 13-play, 78-yard drive to added to their lead. The drive was keyed by an Aiden Galvan 36-yard run inside Liberty territory. Andrade hit Johnson for an 11-yard touchdown pass for a 29-7 lead with 5:50 left in the half.
The Marauders scored, after an interception, on a Galvan 13-yard run.
Cardoza returned an interception 28 yards to the 33-yard line. Wyatt Roth gained seven for a first down. Hoelzel then found a wide-open Kaleb Roth for a 43-yard catch-and-run to the six-yard line.
With time winding down in the first half, Roth got the carry on the next play and was tackled at the five. The ball fell out of his hands trying to stretch it for more yards. However, Cardoza was in the right place. He picked up the ball and ran it the remaining five yards for a touchdown with two seconds left in the half.
The Hawks opened the second half driving to the two-yard line behind a 47-yard run by Wyatt Roth and a 32-yard run by Kaleb Roth. However, two plays later, the Hawks fumbled the center exchange and Monache recovered.
The Marauders proceeded to drive 98 yards on 13 plays to open the lead to 43-14.
Tyler Miller returned the ensuing kickoff to midfield, a 40-yard return. Wyatt Roth gained 15 yards and Kaleb Roth gained 21 yards for a first down. Three plays later, Roth scored from eight yards out cut the lead to 22 with 3:30 left in the third quarter.
Wyatt Roth recovered the ensuing onside kick at the Monache 25-yard line. However, the Hawks turned the ball over on downs after driving inside the Monache 15-yard line.
Johnson scored on a 26-yard touchdown catch for a 50-21 lead.
The Hawks answered with an 11-play, 56-yard drive capped by a Hoelzel three-yard touchdown run for the final score of the game.