Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Liberty fullback Rylan Howe bulls his way into the end zone for the Hawks’ first touchdown in a 53-14 rout over the Yosemite Badgers on Friday.
OAKHURST — Liberty Hawks football head coach Mike Nolte had two goals for his team for the North Sequoia League opener against the Yosemite-Oakhurst Badgers.
“We definitely wanted to stay healthy,” he said. “I’m proud of our kids in the way they came out and played tonight. Yosemite is going to be a very good football down the road. They’re very young. I asked our kids to come out physically and play good football. They did that and responded well to coming off the bye week. I’m happy with our performance.”
The Hawks totally dominated the Badgers. Liberty scored 47 first half points and induced the running clock for the entire second half. The Hawks forced three turnovers and Colton Cardoza returned an interception for a touchdown. Liberty’s defense held Yosemite to just one yard of total offense in the first half. And, Liberty scored touchdowns on all seven of its possessions in a 53-14 victory Friday at Yosemite.
“We came out and they did what we asked for all week,” Nolte said. “I’m proud of our kids and they played hard.”
Wyatt Roth rushed for a game-high 156 yards and scored two more touchdowns to go over the 1,000 yard mark in just the sixth game. Roth has 1,041 yards rushing to go with 17 touchdowns, which ties him for fourth for most touchdowns in a single season. He is also fourth with 36 touchdowns in his career.
The Hawks rushed for 292 yards as a team. Rylan Howe, Tyler Miller, Quentin Stewart and Steven Protzman each rushed for a touchdown and Bradley Moon caught a touchdown pass.
The Hawks went on their longest drive in terms of plays (10) and yardage (70) on the first drive of the game.
Roth opened the drive with a four-yard run and Tyler Miller got the first down with a 17-yard run.
After Roth rushed for seven, Miller got the first down with four yards. Rylan Howe gained seven and Bradley Miller hit his brother, Tyler, for a nine-yard gain and a first down. Two plays later, Miller gained 11 and Howe finished the drive with a four-yard touchdown run.
Liberty gave Yosemite its only first down of the first half with a pass interference penalty, but the Hawks forced a punt.
On the fifth play of the drive, Roth went round the left side behind the pulling blocks of Brad Wallace and Nick Hayes, split the defensie backs and outran the Badgers’ defense for a 52-yard touchdown run. It was his ninth 40-plus yard run of the season.
Yosemite faced a fourth-and-one from its own 29. Yosemite quarterback Tyson Mansfield called his own number, but was stuffed for no gain by Roth to give the Hawks good field possession.
Five plays later, the Hawks found the end zone. After a Colton Cardoza 18-yard pass reception, Miller finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown run.
Three plays later, Miller picked off Mansfield for the first of his two interceptions of the game.
After Howe gained 11 yards for a first down, Bradley Miller found his namesake, Bradley Moon, near the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown pass. With 10 minutes left in the second quarter, Liberty led 28-0 after Moon’s fourth straight point after.
After a pass breakup by Moon and Trevor Porter, Yosemite was forced to punt from its eight-yard line. Howe kept the drive alive with a six-yard gain on fourth-and-two. Roth then carried for 11 yards and added 18 on third-and-16.
Roth finished the drive with a four-yard touchdown run with 4:50 left in the first half.
On Yosemite’s next play, middle linebacker Cardoza started to rush the passer, but dropped in coverage. He reached out to pick off Mansfield at the 24 and ran it in for a touchdown, just 16 seconds after Liberty’s previous score.
Two plays later, Miller picked off Mansfield again, this time off a tip from Porter battling with the Yosemite receiver.
Roth had the big gain with a 23-yard run to the 10-yard line. Stewart, in his first game of the season, scored on his second carry of the season with a 10-yard run while breaking three tackles. The Hawks led 47-0 with 1:37 left in the game.
With a running clock and many reserves in the game for the Hawks, Yosemite opened the second half with a 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that took up the entire third quarter.
The Hawks got the ball back to open the fourth quarter. Helped by a Yosemite chop block penalty, Protzman finished the drive with a darting 19-yard touchdown run. He went across the field and eluded a few tacklers before finding the end zone with seven minutes left in the game.
Yosemite closed out the scoring with a touchdown pass on the final play of the game.
Liberty plays in Reedley against Immanuel in its final non-conference game of the season.