Missed extra point leads to loss
Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Liberty’s Dominic Castaneda reaches out to haul in the potential game-tying touchdown pass during Friday’s loss to the Immanuel Eagles. Castaneda scored both touchdowns, both on passes while gaining more than 120 yards from scrimmage. He also forced a fumble and recovered it.
There’s no telling what would have happened between the Liberty Hawks and the Immanuel-Reedley Eagles if their football game went into overtime.
However, a missed extra point by Liberty’s first-year kicker didn’t give the Hawks the opportunity to go into overtime and the Eagles held on to a 14-13 victory Friday to spoil Liberty’s Homecoming festivities.
“I thought we moved the ball decent and then we would get some holding penalties that backed us up and it got us in bad situations,” head coach Mike Nolte said. “Every time we got something going, especially in the first half, we would get a penalty or a bad play.”
Although the Hawks only gained 222 yards of total offense, including a season-low 45 yards rushing, they still outgained the Eagles by 100 yards.
“I thought our defense played well the whole game,” Nolte said. “They did a great job with a physical team that can run and throw with a mobile quarterback. I thought we did a good job on defense.”
The Hawks didn’t allow the Eagles to complete a pass, allowed just six first downs while the Eagles ran just 38 plays and averaged 3.2 yards per play. Liberty also recovered three Immanuel fumbles and forced the Eagles to go 1-for-10 on third down.
“I was worried about their passing game,” Nolte said. “We gave them a short field early in the game for their first touchdown. The defense held the rest of the time.”
Mitchell Whaley came up with an interception on a fake punt and led the team with seven tackles. Mitchell Sano didn’t have a tackle, but had three passes defended.
The Eagles scored their first touchdown on a 17-yard drive after a bad punt snap by the Hawks. They scored their second touchdown on an interception return for a touchdown.
The Hawks trailed for most of the game and got two touchdown passes to Dominic Castaneda in the fourth quarter to give them a chance.
“The biggest thing that we stressed in our football program was play all four quarters, no matter what,” Nolte said. “To see the kids respond to do that is a prideful thing.”
Liberty quarterback Luke McFarland threw for a career high 177 yards, but his two fourth quarter interceptions hut the comeback attempt.
Castaneda accounted for 129 of the 222 yards for the Hawks. He caught five passes for 82 yards and also led the team with 47 yards rushing.
The Hawks went three-and-out to open the game. On the punt, the snap went between punter Castaneda’s legs. Castaneda recovered the ball, but was tackled five yards later and the Eagles started their first drive at the Liberty 17-yard line.
The Eagles found the end zone three plays later from a yard out and took the lead just two minutes into the game.
The Hawks had a drive to the Immanuel four-yard line. The drive began with the Hawks punting. However, Immanuel muffed the punt and Vince Oberti came up with the fumble recovery.
Castaneda then gained 20 and 13 yards to the 12-yard line. Nolan Sewell gained five to the four, but the Hawks were stuffed for a loss of two on fourth down.
The Hawks got the ball to the Immanuel 23-yard line, but turned the ball over on downs.
Three plays later, Immanuel fumbled the snap and Sewell came up with the recovery.
The Hawks got an initial first down on a Castaneda run. However, the Hawks went backwards with a run for a loss and a holding penalty and turned the ball over on downs.
The Eagles got a first down on a pass interference penalty and then a nine-yard run on a fake punt. A tackle for loss by Diego Rojas and a pass break-up by Sano forced the Eagles to punt.
Liberty began a drive near the end of the first half, starting with a Nolan Sewell 12-yard pass from McFarland. Dante Ciritela gained 10 on another pass. A pass to Sewell gained 11 more yards.
On third-and-six, McFarland hit Whaley for a gain of 18. On third-and-10, Whaley went up the middle to gain 13 on a fullback dive. On third-and-19, McFarland tried to hit Sano in the end zone. However, the pass was incomplete, but Immanuel was called for pass interference.
The Hawks gained two on third down. Christian Haney tried a 34-yard field goal and missed left.
Immanuel ran one play at the end of the second half and it was a 34-yard gain, its longest gain of the day to end the half.
Immanuel started the second half with a run up the middle for a 30-yard gain, but Castaneda stripped the back of the ball and recovered the fumble.
However, the Hawks punted three plays later.
The Liberty defense of Whaley, Oberti and Sano forced a punt, but the Hawks gave the ball right back on a three-and-out.
On Immanuel’s four punts, the Eagles gained 24 yards on the drives.
Liberty began a scoring drive near the end of the third quarter. McFarland hit Sano for a nine-yard gain and a first down. McFarland found Castaneda for 14-yards and hit Castaneda, again, for an 18-yard gain on third-and-nine.
Three plays later, Castaneda, on a wheel route went to the end zone and McFarland threw a perfect ball for a 22-yard touchdown pass. Haney hit the extra point and Liberty tied the game at seven.
The Liberty defense forced a fourth down after a Sano pass break-up. Immanuel tried a fake punt, but a pass was deflected and Whaley came up with the interception.
Three plays later, McFarland tried to hit Castaneda, but Immanuel read it, came up with the interception and ran it back 65-yards for the touchdown and a 14-7 lead with 6:03 left.
Unfortunately, on Liberty’s next offensive play, McFarland was picked off, again.
Caleb Sisco, Rojas, Oberti and Max Nulick forced a fourth down. Immanuel was called for a delay of game penalty twice and tried a pass to the end zone that fell incomplete.
On fourth-and- three, McFarland tried to hit Castaneda going over the middle. While the ball fell incomplete, Immanuel was hit with a pass interference penalty for a hold of Castaneda’s arms.
After a sack, fumble and ball rolling out of bounds for a loss of 15, Liberty faced a third-and-22. McFarland went back and launched a ball down the right sideline. Sano ran under it came caught it for a 36-yard reception to the 23-yard line.
Two plays later, McFarland hit a wide-open Castaneda up the seam for a 19-yard touchdown with 39 seconds left.
Unfortunately, Haney was wide left on his extra point attempt and Immanuel held on for a 14-13 win.
Liberty opens North Sequoia League play Friday at Washington Union-Easton.