Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Liberty’s Wyatt Roth breaks through a hole created by Nick Hayes (52) during a 65-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage in Friday’s 49-8 rout of Chavez
The Liberty Hawks football team completed a three-game, season-opening homestand with a result much like the previous two games — with a rout — this time at the hands of the Cesar Chavez-Delano Titans.
The Hawks scored 35 points in the first quarter and cruised to a 49-8 victory and invoked the 40-point running clock for the second game in a row Friday night at Liberty.
“We talk about every week that we want to be better each week,” head coach Mike Nolte said. “We’re doing that up to this point. Regardless of the team we are playing, we are getting better. That is our goal. We’re right where we want to be after three games. We’re going into a big game and it’s going to be a good one.”
The Hawks will next prepare for their toughest test of the season this Friday against the Robert F. Kennedy Thunderbirds in Delano.
While Chavez was one of the worst teams in Div. IV, Kennedy is ranked No. 3 in Div. V while the Hawks are ranked No. 4 in Div. V.
The Hawks were again dominant Friday night against Chavez. They earned 23 first downs to Chavez’s 10 and three came by Liberty penalty. Liberty outgained Chavez 463-153, including 388-73 on the ground. While Liberty had to punt once, Chavez punted five times.
Liberty running back Wyatt Roth only touched the ball 12 times, but he had three rushes for 20 yards or more, including a 65-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage.
“Any time you give the ball to Wyatt, it’s potentially going to be a big play,” Nolte said. “He’s big, strong and fast. We blocked it up well, he broke a couple of tackles and did what he does. He’s special.”
Because of the big score, Nolte, once again, was able to clear his bench and get every player in the game. He had six different players get rushing attempts and five of those players scored, including reserves Trevor Porter and Steven Protzman.
“It’s good to see our reserves perform, step up and play well when they are out there,” Nolte said. “These guys want to get in. They get touches and get better with all the playing time they get. It makes the whole team better. You have the whole team rooting for each other. The team is starting to come together to get the brotherhood we’re always looking for. Winning helps that. Seeing the kids care about their teammates is great to see. The kids get excited for each other. They are rooting for all the players. They know it’s a big thing and they are happy for them. The lack of selfishness is very important for a football team.”
Rylan Howe led the defense with 11 tackles and Porter had 10. However, the biggest cheers from the sideline came when reserve linebacker Nick Banuelos picked off a Chavez pass and was a shoestring tackle away from taking it into the end zone.
In its first three games, Liberty has outscored its opponents 132-18 (44-6 average). They have outgained their opponents 1,259-341 (420-114 average) and have outrushed their opponents 1,088-129 (363-43). This season, Liberty has allowed 258 positive rushing yards, but has stuffed its opponents for 129 negative yards.
Chavez’s opening kickoff went out of bounds and Liberty started the game at its own 35-yard line. Nolte called Roth’s number and he didn’t disappoint. He went behind a Nick Hayes block, ran out of an ankle tackle and outran the rest of the Chavez defense for a 65-yard touchdown run just 13 seconds into the game.
It took Liberty a little longer to score on its next possession. Rylan Howe, who gained 92 yards on the night, gained 10 for a first down. Bradley Miller hit Bradley Moon for a 13-yard gain. Roth gained 27 on second-and-11 and added 17 on the next play. Howe finished the drive with a three-yard touchdown plunge for a 14-0 lead after Moon made the second of his seven point afters on the night.
Chavez got its first first down of the game, but it was on a Liberty penalty. They later had to punt and the Hawks methodically drove down the field on the legs of Tyler Miller, Roth and Howe.
Roth got the big gain with a 20-yard run. He gained eight for a first down. Howe followed for nine and Miller ran for seven. After a Roth five-yard gain, Howe carried for 10 to the two-yard line. Miller finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown run with 2:18 left in the first quarter.
After Chavez earned its first offensive first down of the game, they were forced to punt after a sack by William Bucaroff.
Three plays later, Bradley Miller dropped back and found a wide open Colton Cardoza for a 53-yard touchdown catch-and-run with 9:42 left in the half.
Again, Chavez was forced to punt, but the snap went over punter Alex Medel’s head. He recovered the ball at the 15-yard line, but Porter tackled him at the 16 to give the Hawks a short field.
Roth scored on the next play for a 35-0 lead with 6:23 left in the first half.
The Titans got a 15-yard face mask penalty to help keep their drive going. Chavez connected on a 27-yard catch-and-run for their lone touchdown of the night. Medel caught a pass in the end zone for the two-point conversion.
The Hawks had every intention on scoring before the end of the first half. Howe gained nine from the 21-yard line. Roth went for 10 and Howe went for 14 to the Chavez 46 yard line.
However, Moon dropped a pass that would have gained 15 yards and Cardoza had an over-the-shoulder pass go through his arms that would have led to a touchdown to end the first half.
The second half was much of the same for the Hawks. Behind the line of Dominic Oberti, Brad Wallace, Angel Lugo, Hayes, Chris Imirian and Cardoza, the Hawks blew through the Chavez defensive front. Roth gained nine on the first play of the second half drive. Miller gained 14 and Howe gained 10. After a Chavez personal foul penalty, Porter finished the drive with a 16-yard touchdown run around the right side for a 42-8 lead with 8:29 left in the third quarter.
Roth got the next drive started with a 15-yard gain on his final carry of the night. Howe carried for 11 on his last run. Porter then gained 21 yards to the 15-yard line. Nathan Vasquez went for six and Chavez added another five yards with a personal foul penalty. Protzman finished the drive with a five-yard touchdown run with 1:55 left in the third quarter to institute the running clock.
Both teams had a possession in the fourth quarter, but neither team could score.