A new league for Liberty athletics
Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Liberty Athletics Director and head football coach Mike Nolte celebrated his 100th career victory last season. He hopes to lead the Hawks to a league championship in the newly-formed Northwest Sierra League.
For the third time in school history, the Liberty Hawk athletic teams will change leagues.
No longer will they be a force in the North Sequoia League, but will take their talents to the Northwest Sierra League, rather the teams will come to them.
“I think it’s going to be good for us and the other schools involved,” said Liberty High School Athletics Director and head football coach Mike Nolte. “Chowchilla, us, Yosemite-Oakhurst and Sierra-Tollhouse combined with the other schools while adding Minarets and Fresno Christian will be great. Fresno Christian was like in four other leagues, depending the sport so they are happy to be in a league. We’ve played these schools, off-and-on, in different sports throughout the year. They’ve been fairly competitive. I’m excited for it.”
Former NSL opponents Washington Union-Easton and Kerman left the league to join the Tri-County Conference- Kings Canyon Division, along with Central Valley Christian-Visalia, Selma and Kingsburg.
The Northwest Sierra League consistss of Liberty, Yosemite, caruthers, Fowler, Minarets, Parlier, Riverdale, Chowchilla and Fresno Christian. However, Fresno Christian plays 8-man football.
“We couldn’t stay with four teams and it made sense, geographically, to join with Fowler, Caruthers and all of them,” Nolte said. “Going to the WSL would have been the other option. I’m happy with this one.”
Coincidentally, Nolte has been trying to get Caruthers on his football schedule for the past couple of years and playing Fowler, again, will renew old rivalries.
“I’m happy we’re going to get to play Caruthers and Fowler, again,” he said. “We had some big games with Fowler and that creates a rivalry. They have some good sports programs. We finally get Minarets on the schedule and other schools that are like-size.”
In addition, Nolte hopes to start creating a rivalry with Minarets, which is close proximity to the school.
“They get some of our kids that go up there and we get kids that come down here,” he said. “Minarets is good at volleyball and baseball. Fowler is good at baseball, softball, basketball and soccer and other sports. We’ve played these schools in preseason and it’s been competitive.”
With Golden Valley Unified School District opening the Liberty Agriculture, Engineering and Farming (L.E.A.F.) Building in June, Nolte hopes to get some of his athletic facilities upgraded.
“Our baseball people are pushing for upgrades on their facility,” Nolte said. “We’ll see where that goes. The biggest need we have is our track. We need to upgrade our track facility to an all-purpose track. There’s been momentum in the past that has fallen off. That momentum has started up again. My hope is to have the whole thing redone with turf. Ideally, with our ground and hardpan, turf is the best option. We have a lot of traffic out there. We have Friday Night Football, Saturday youth football and it goes right into soccer season. It’s tough to watch when we get to the spring season, our track athletes practice on dirt. They don’t go to one meet that’s on dirt. We’re practicing on hard dirt. We put a long jump pit in. It’s difficult to find enough room to give them a good look at a meet. We’ll take them to Madera South to practice there. We took our pole vaulters up to Sierra once or twice.”
The school just finished resurfacing the gymnasium floor and also found out the tennis courts need major upgrading.
“We had to fill in some cracks on the tennis courts,” Nolte said. “That made them see that it needed to be redone, and even add a few more. That will be nice. We have four courts and it would be ideal to add two more courts. There’s room for it.”
Nolte knows his athletic facilities could use some upgrading, but he also knows it takes money and the district has to be able to spread out the money evenly to everyone.
“Everyone needs or wants something and it costs money,” he said. “If it was up to me, I would put it all into athletics. The decision-makers have to spread the money out. Facilities, in general, are seen by people coming in and see that they are all in and don’t have a problem sending their kids here. It’s a draw, regardless of academics or athletics. Kids want nice things.”
Also, while Madera Unified School District and the Central Section are working their way away from taking cash at the front gates, Nolte said that it will take a while before the school incorporates cashless payment with the GoFan app.
“We’re going to continue ticket-taking as normal with cash,” Nolte said. “Once we get to playoffs, the CIF wants to use GoFan. We’ve used it in the playoffs and it was smooth, for the most part. There are still situations where people aren’t too keen on the technology. Eventually, we’ll move in that direction, but we’re about a year or two away.”