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Thunderbirds hand Hawks their first loss

Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune

Liberty’s Brad Wallace brings down Kennedy’s Tyreak Walker for one of Walker’s 10 carries of three yards or less during Friday’s game.


DELANO — The Liberty Hawks looked like they were going to be able to stay with the Kennedy Delano Thunderbirds early in last week’s game.


However, the Hawks were unable to sustain drives while the Thunderbirds had touchdown drives of eight, nine, nine, 14 and six plays for a 32-14 victory Friday night in Bakersfield.


“We got beat tonight,” Liberty head coach Mike Nolte said. “They are a good football team. I give them all the credit. They did a good job.”


The Thunderbird won the offensive battle, outgaining the Hawks 302-232. They ran 71 plays while the Hawks were limited to 43.


“They wore us down,” Nolte said. “I thought we played better in the second half. They overwhelmed us a little with their speed and physicality.”


Liberty running back Wyatt Roth rushed 15 times for 147 yards. He scored on touchdown runs of 54 and 76 yards. However, that was most of the Liberty offense. In four carries, Roth rushed for 147 yards. However, he had 11 carries of three yards or less for a total of -4 yards.


Meanwhile, Kennedy’s go-to rusher Tyreak Walker gained 113 yards on 22 carries. He averaged five yards per carry. However, the Hawks hemmed him in, somewhat. Walker had 10 carries of three yards or less for a total of just 10 yards. He had 12  other carries for 103 yards.


“We played all right defensively, but gave them some short fields,” Nolte said. “We got some big plays on offense, but we just couldn’t sustain a drive.”


After Roth scored his second long touchdown, the Hawks had eight drives the rest of the game. Six of those drives ended in punt with none gaining more than eight yards. Another drive ended in an interception and the other drive ended on the final play of the first half.


Kenney had touchdown drives of 75, 72 and 68 yards. However, the Thunderbirds also had touchdown drives of 30, 24 and 23 yards.


After Roth sacked Kennedy quarterback David Estrada on third down, the Hawks didn’t take long to get on the scoreboard on their second drive of the game.


After runs by Tyler Miller and Rylan Howe, Roth took the carry around the left side. Behind pulling blocks by Brad Wallace and Nick Hayes, Roth found open field and outran the Kennedy defense for a 54-yard touchdown.


Kennedy then went on an eight-play, 75-yard drive for a touchdown. They missed the extra point and trailed 7-6.


Roth extended Liberty’s lead just 42 seconds later. On second down, Roth, again, went behind crushing pull blocks from Wallace and Hayes for a 76-yard touchdown run to open a 14-6 lead.


Kennedy answered with a nine-play, 72-yard drive for a touchdown. The extra point pass was incomplete and Liberty still led 14-12.


After a trade in punts, Kennedy returned Colton Cardoza’s punt 32 yards to the 30-yard line. Although it took a fourth down pass to keep the drive alive, Kennedy scored from a yard out for an 18-14 lead with 2:43 left in the first half after the extra point run was stuffed.


Liberty’s Bradley Miller hit Howe out of the backfield for a 31-yard gain to the Kennedy 23-yard line. Runs by Tyler Miller and Howe moved the ball to the 13-yard line. Bradley Miller hit Cardoza for 10-yards to the three.


However, the Hawks couldn’t find the end zone before the end of the first half. Howe and Tyler Miller lost a yard. Roth gained just one on third down. On fourth and goal, Miller tried a halfback pass for Bradley Moon in the end zone. However, Kennedy reacted to the floating pass and knocked it away from Moon to head into the half leading 18-14.


From there, it was all Kennedy. They scored two more second half touchdowns while the Hawks gained just 10 yards and punted four times in five possessions.


Liberty continues a four-game road trip at Templeton on Friday.