Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Liberty’s Tyler Miller sprints past Templeton defenders to score a game-tying 41-yard touchdown run that set the stage for Aramel Villa’s game-winning 32-yard field goal in Friday’s victory over the Eagles.
After two straight losses, the Liberty Hawks football team was determined not to let the streak hit three games and came back to defeat the Templeton Eagles 23-20 on a field goal by Aramel Villa.
Villa gave head coach Mike Nolte his first “walk-off” victory by hitting a 32-yard field goal as time ran out for Liberty’s third win of the season.
“This is a huge win for us,” Nolte said. “I challenged a few of the kids this week. To watch them step up, respond to those challenges and see it pay off Friday night is a huge deal for the kids. It’s hard losing. It’s hard on their state of mind, although the teams that beat us are pretty good teams. To come in and win a game like this, it pays off.”
Tyler Miller set up the game-winning field goal with a 41-yard touchdown run with five minutes left in the game to tie the score at 20.
“That was huge to come back,” Miller said. “Without that block (from David Portnoff), we wouldn’t have won the game.”
The Hawks found themselves trailing 14-3 after the first quarter and 20-13 heading into the fourth quarter before the game-ending heroics.
“I thought we were relentless on offense,” Nolte said. “They stopped us a few times. Penalties got to us a little bit. Our kids stepped up to the challenges we presented to them. It paid off during the week and that translated to football on Friday.”
“We have heart,” Miller said. “We play for our brothers. We go out there every day and work our butts off to get better. I couldn’t be more prouder.”
In an evenly-played games by both teams, the Hawks got the edge at the end. The teams were separated by four yards in total offense and both teams completed eight passes. They also each committed nine penalties and didn’t have a turnover.
Quentin Stewart (105 yards) and Miller (102 yards) each eclipsed the century mark and fullback Nick Anselmo had 75 rushing yards.
The Hawks’ defense held up late in the game. They had trouble containing Tyler Kaschewski, who accounted for 296 yards of total offense (118 passing and 178 rushing). He also had a long kickoff return called back by a penalty.
“Some of the things they were doing on offense are very difficult to deal with,” Nolte said. “We just focused on our roles and what we practiced all week and get our guys to take care of their responsibilities. They did a better job of it in the second half. We slowed them down a bit on defense to get some stops and get the ball back. On offense, we kept the tempo up a little bit.”
The Hawks improve to 3-2 before hitting the bye week. They host Yosemite on Oct. 4 in the North Sequoia League opener for Homecoming.
“The bye week comes at a good time for us,” Nolte said. “Some of our guys need some rest to heal some those things nagging on them a little bit. We’ll take it easy on the contact this week and get ready for Yosemite.”
The Eagles took the first possession of the game and scored with a seven-play, 69-yard drive. Kaschewski, scrambling out of the pocket found his receiver in the end zone for an early lead.
The Hawks came back and drove down the field. However, they couldn’t overcome a personal foul penalty and faced a fourth-and-goal from the 24-yard line. Villa came in to hit a 42-yard field goal with 6:20 left in the first.
Templeton answered with a six-play, 79-yard drive to open a 14-0 lead.
The key play as a 20-yard pass on third-and-13 and Kaschewski closed the crive with a 24-yard run down the left sideline.
Liberty came back with a long drive of its own. Quarterback Trevor Porter handed the ball off on 10 straight plays, including a two-yard run by Anselmo on third-and-one. Porter ran for four yards on a quarterback sneak to the one-yard line. He snuck again from a yard out to cut Selma’s lead to 14-10 with 9:48 left in the first half.
The Hawks forced a punt and took over at their own seven-yard line. Porter found Miller for a 16-yard catch-and-run from the three for a first down. Porter then hit Anselmo for six yards on third-and-six. Stewart caught another pass for 13 yards and another first down.
On fourth-and-three, Stewart gained eight yards into Templeton territory. The Hawks were called for a hold and faced a third-and-24 with time running out in the first half.
Porter hit Villa for a 15-yard pass to the 33-yard line. With the clock continuing to run, the Liberty field goal team ran out and Villa, calmly, hit a 49-yard field goal as the clock ran out. The field goal was the longest in Liberty history to cut the lead to 14-13.
“Aramel was huge,” Nolte said. “Getting down in range at the end of the first half gave us some momentum going into halftime. The kids coming in at the half were excited. It was a one-point game and we were moving the ball. The game-winner, you can’t get any bigger than that.”
Liberty was forced to punt on its first three possessions of the second half. On the second possession, Bryan Jauregui pinned the Eagles back to the nine-yard line.
Kaschewski saw a hole on the left side of the line and outran the Liberty defense for a 91-yard touchdown run to open a 20-13 lead with 3:31 left in the third.
The Eagles made the point after, but were called for too many men on the field. The ensuing point after, with a 15-yard penalty, was short.
After the Hawks went three-and-out, Templeton gained a pair of first downs to the Liberty 14-yard line. Rylan Howe and Dominic Oberti sacked Kaschewski for a loss of four and Anselmo recorded another sack on the next play. Templeton went for it on fourth-and-14 and Kaschewski threw incomplete.
The Hawks got a first down on a pair of 10-yard runs from Anselmo and Stewart. However, the Hawks were called for two straight holding penalties and faced a first-and-32.
Stewart then gained 10-yards and Anselmo went up the middle for seven more. On third-and-15, Porter rolled to his right and threw incomplete for Villa. However, Templeton hit Porter after he threw and was called for a roughing the passer penalty for a Liberty first down.
On the next play, Miller got the hand-off and went to his right. Liberty tackle David Portnoff collapsed the Eagles’ defensive line inside and tight end Chris Imirian took care of the outside linebacker. Miller turned the corner and saw nothing by green grass in front of him. His game-tying touchdown gave the Hawks momentum with 5:29 left in the game.
“Portnoff had an extremely good down block on their linebacker,” Miller said. “Without that block, there wouldn’t have been a hole and I would have been down.”
“It didn’t look good,” Nolte said of first-and-32. “We got the roughing the passer penalty on third down. That was a big play for us. It moved us to their side of the field. We got a couple more plays. The kids up front did a good job. We popped off some good runs.”
After two Templeton first downs, the Liberty defense stepped up again. Oberti and Jon Franklin stopped Kaschewski for a gain pf four. On a sweep to the left, Anselmo stopped the runner for a three-yard gain. Templeton went to the other side on third down and Anselmo broke the play up for a loss of two. Kaschewski threw incomplete on fourth down to give the ball to the Hawks.
Stewart gained 17 yards on the next play, but it was called back by a penalty. Porter kept the drive alive with a 14-yard scramble on third-and-7. Miller gained 11 on third-and-one to set the Hawks up at the Templeton 16-yard line with four seconds left after a time out to set the stage for Villa’s heroics.
“Everyone kept telling me to get loose before the last kick,” Villa said. “I told them I got it. We practice it all the time.”
Villa calmly stepped back and drilled a 32-yard field goal to give the Hawks their third victory of the season.