Injuries mount for Hawks in loss to Immanuel
Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Liberty’s Steven Protzman runs out of an Immanuel tackle during Friday’s loss to the Eagles. Protzman scored one of two touchdowns for the Hawks.
By the time the Liberty Hawks football team had a chance to look up against the Immanuel-Reedley Eagles, it was without its top three ball carriers in a non-conference loss at Liberty.
Leading rusher Quentin Stewart was lost to an injured shoulder after just one carry and one defensive drive. Quarterback Trevor Porter was lost to a knee contusion midway through the second quarter. Also, running back Tyler Miller was lost, intermittently, to injury during the game.
“It’s tough when you lose guys early in the game at that rate,” Liberty head coach Mike Nolte said. “It changes a lot of the mindset of calling plays and doing the things we do well. Different guys have different strengths and you have to look for those. You do the best you can with who is on the field with their strengths. Our kids kept playing hard the whole game. I was proud of them for that.”
After Friday’s loss, it was still too early to get the extent of the injuries, but the Hawks closed the game with three back-ups in the backfield. However, they all filled in admirably.
Quarterback Diego Piedra connected on a 42-yard touchdown pass to Aramel Villa. Running back Steven Protzman gave the team a spark late and scored a touchdown. Nick Anselmo moved from fullback to tailback and gained 97 yards on 13 carries.
“We found some momentum late, but it was too little, too late,” Nolte said. “It was tough to find. They did a good job. Their linebacker did a great job and made a lot of tackles. We have to be ready for those kinds of things.”
Immanuel’s Matt Tiger rushed for a game-high 173 yards and got key first downs late in the game to seal the victory. Quarterback Hector Davila rushed for a touchdown and threw for another and Michael Kawagoe (Immanuel’s linebacker) returned an interception 62 yards for another touchdown.
“Immanuel’s kids are tough strong kids and hard to bring down with one guy if you didn’t square up on them,” Nolte said. “We got guys to slow them down, but we have to rally to the ball better.”
The Hawks were already banged up heading into the game. Starting safety/linebacker Jarrod Dotson (knee) and starting interior defensive lineman Jon Franklin (illness) were also among the walking wounded.
The Eagles scored the first four touchdowns of the game, taking advantage of another Liberty turnover.
It almost seemed like what could go wrong went wrong for the Hawks in the first half. They failed to convert on a fourth-and-one deep in Immanuel territory. Then, the next time, the Hawks moved into Immanuel territory, they had to settle for a field goal. The snap went through Piedra’s hands and Liberty didn’t get any points.
Liberty punted on two of its first three drives and turned the ball over on downs twice.
Meanwhile, the Eagles scored touchdowns on two of their first three drives, including a three-play, 99-yard drive that was highlighted by a 71-yard run by Tiger.
However, the Liberty defense began to raise its level of play. They forced Immanel to punt on three of its next four drives. Liberty allowed a third quarter touchdown, but recovered a fourth quarter fumble.
Although Liberty got the fumble and scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, it was too little, too late for the Hawks.
Liberty drove 73 yards on 10 plays to score its first touchdown of the game with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. Protzman started off the drive with a hard-charging 17-yard run, breaking numerous tackles to move the ball to the 44-yard line.
Anselmo followed with a 10-yard run to move into Immanuel territory. Anselmo then gained three on third-and-three. Anselmo then gained 12 yards to the 21-yard line. Liberty was helped by a personal foul penalty and the Hawks had first and goal at the 10.
Three plays later, Protzman went around the left side into the end zone for the touchdown.
After the onside kick attempt failed, Immanuel fumbled on the next play and Davey Pombo recovered for the Hawks.
Three plays later, Piedra hit Villa down the right sideline. Villa rose above the defender to retrieve the ball and then went into the end zone for the touchdown and a 27-12 Immanuel lead with six minutes left in the game.
However, the Hawks didn’t get the ball back in the game. Immanuel drove 44 yards on nine plays to close out the game with the victory.