Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Liberty’s Colton Cardoza drags a Mendota tackler during a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown in Friday’s 55-7 rout over the Aztecs.
In what was thought of to be a competitive game, the Liberty hawks football team put all thoughts to rest with seven first half touchdowns in a rout of the Mendota Aztecs.
The Hawks won their second game of the new season with four first quarter touchdowns and three more in the second quarter to invoke a running clock for the entire second half of a 55-7 victory Friday night.
“Watching the kids build up to this week, they were excited about playing in the game,” head coach Mike Nolte said. “I don’t know if it was the win that got them excited. Everybody was pretty loose and upbeat. I was happy with the energy, intensity and enthusiasm we had. I hope we keep that going.”
The Hawks scored four touchdowns of 60 yards or more and also had one of 49 yards and 36 yards.
“I really thought it was going to be a good battle up front,” Nolte said. They had some good size. They got off the ball well. They wreaked havoc against McLane. We talked that up this week. Our kids responded. I was surprised how well we took care of business up front. I was also a little surprised with the scheme they ran against us.”
The Hawks averaged 11 yards per play while rushing for 347 yards. Meanwhile, the Liberty defense pushed the Aztecs backwards on defense. Mendota gained negative 23 yards of offense in the first half and 21 yards rushing the entire game. Mendota rushed for negative 21 yards in the game and punted 10 of its 11 possessions.
“Tyler Melvin has them dialed in,” Nolte said. “He does his homework well. We play a balanced scheme and we have some guys up front that allow us to play that scheme. The kids are doing a great job and are responding to the scheme.”
After punting on their first possession, the Hawks didn’t take long into their second possession to get on the scoreboard.
Two plays into the second drive, Wyatt Roth went around the left side and bhind the pulling block of Nick Hayes to outrun the defense for a 63-yard touchdown run with 8:28 left in the first quarter.
Liberty’s defense, led by Rylan Howe and David Portnoff forced a Mendota punt. Colton Cardoza, the up back, received the ball at the Liberty 31-yard line. He took off to his left, put a stiff arm against a Mendota defender, split two more with a juke move to the right and ran through a shirt tackle for a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown and give the Hawks a 14-0 lead after a Bradley Moon extra point. He made seven of eight extra points in the win.
The Hawks took a little more time to score on their third possession. Keyed by a Roth 16-yard run and a Mendota face mask penalty, the Hawks had a first down at the Aztecs’ 19-yard line. Three plays later, Roth scored from four yards out for a 21-0 lead with 2:56 left in the first quarter.
The Hawks scored just before the end of the first quarter for a 28-0 lead. After a Mendota punt, Roth, again, went around the left side. He found nothing but running room. With Cardoza and Hayes leading the way, Roth went 65-yards for his second touchdown of the night for a 28-0 lead with 1:12 left in the first quarter.
Mendota’s next possession ended in another punt. Cardoza took the punt inside Mendota territory. He went to his left and outran the Mendota defense for a 53-yard punt return touchdown, his second of the game. However, a block in the back penalty was called and the touchdown was nullified.
However, Nolte rewarded Cardoza for his efforts and called his number on the next play. Quarterback Bradley Miller rolled to his right and launched a ball down the field. Cardoza’s defender fell and he caught the pass for an easy run to the end zone to complete a 49-yard touchdown catch-and-run.
Liberty’s defense moved Mendota backwards on its next possession. Roth, Bradley Wallace and Angel Lugo sacked Mendota’s quarterback. Then, Wallace stuffed a pass attempt for a loss of two.
The Hawks went five plays to find the end zone. On the fifth play in the drive, Tyler Miller went around the right side for a 36-yard touchdown run for a 42-0 lead with 6:37 left in the first half.
After a Roth sack, Mendota punted from its own 23 and got off a nine-yard punt. Liberty took five plays to score on a 32-yard drive.
Rylan Howe, who started the drive with a 15-yard gain, ended it with a three-run touchdown run to complete the first half scoring for a 49-0 halftime lead.
After a Liberty fumble, Mendota used a 21-yard pass play to set up its only touchdown of the game with 1:23 left in the third quarter.
On the next possession, Liberty’s Trevor Porter went around the left side for a 15-yard gain, but the play was nullified because of a penalty. Nolte called Porter’s number again and wasn’t touched in a 72-yard touchdown run to complete the scoring in a 55-7 victory.
Liberty next hosts Cesar Chavez-Delano to complete a season-opening three-game homestand.