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Hawks close season with win over Tribe

Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune

Liberty running back Nick Anselmo powers through Chowchilla tacklers during Friday’s 38-14 victory over the Tribe.


CHOWCHILLA — The Liberty Hawks closed out the “2020” football season with a 38-14 victory over the Chowchilla Tribe.

The Hawks finished the season Friday with a 4-1 record by accumulating 413 yards of total offense, all on the ground.

“We wore them down,” head coach Mike Nolte said. “We saw some things we could do in the first half and stuck with that in the second half. They kept working so we kept staying with it.”

Nick Anselmo rushed for a team season-high, and career-high, 177 yards and three touchdowns. Dominic Castaneda added 114 yards and a touchdown.

Castaneda also helped on the defensive side that forced three interceptions. He had two of them — Mitchell Sano had the other — to extend his school record with eight interceptions in a season.

“Our kids fly around pretty good,” Nolte said. “If you throw the ball as much as they did, we’re going to get some because we have some good athletes back there.”

Vince Oberti led the Hawks with 11 tackles and Mitchell Whaley added 10.

The special teams also ‘kicked’ in. Steven Pennington was perfect on all five of his extra points and also made his only field goal attempt of the year — a 38-yarder in the third quarter. Jared Nolte also recovered a muffed kick in the first quarter.

The Hawks finished 4-1 with their only loss to Washington Union-Easton. With the win, Liberty has some positives heading into the 2021 regular season.

“It is good momentum to head into later this year,” Nolte said.

The Hawks grinded out the victory. They had three scoring drives of 10 plays or more and ran off 25 more plays than Chowchilla while earning 30 first downs.

After a trade in possessions, Liberty got on the scoreboard late in the first quarter. Anselmo started the 14-play, 79-yard drive with an 11-yard run. Quarterback Diego Piedra ran for eight on third-and-seven to keep the drive alive. Piedra also gained six on third-and- five to move the ball to the 11.

Castaneda finished the drive with a touchdown around the right side.

On Pennington’s ensuing kick-off, he lofted a pop-up to the Chowchilla side. The ball went through the hands of a Tribe player and Jared Nolte ended up with the ball for the recovery.

Chowchilla initially stopped the Hawks to force a fourth down. Piedra kept the ball for a four-yard run on fourth-and-three. Three plays later, Anselmo found the end zone on the first play of the second quarter.

Pennington’s extra point gave the Hawks a 14-0 lead.

It took Chowchilla just three plays to get on the scoreboard. Tony Woolsey found Isaac Robles for a 35-yard pass play and hit Devn Guthrie on a wheel route in the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown. Victor Grijalva ran up the middle for the two point conversion and a 14-8 Liberty lead with 10:40 left in the half.

The Hawks drove inside the Tribe’s 40-yard line, but turned the ball over on downs.

Liberty’s defense, led by Mitchell Whaley, Brad Wallace and Anselmo forced a Chowchilla punt.

Tyler Person gained eight for a first down. Anselmo converted second-and-three with a six-yard run. Person gained 11 more yards on the next play and converted a 3-and-2 with a seven-yard run. Anselmo gained seven for a first-and-goal at the six. Two plays later, Anselmo went up the middle for a touchdown with 1:23 left in the first half.

Chowchilla began the following drive with passes to Guthrie and Jose Jimenez for a first down. However, Woolsey couldn’t find his receivers on the next two plays and the Tribe had to punt to close out the second half trailing 21-8.

Chowchilla came out of the halftime break determined to cut into the Liberty lead. Woolsey found Jason Pope for 12-yards on third-and-two. Deven Godwin caught a third-and-11 pass for 13 yards and a first down. On second-and-15, after a penalty, Woolsey tried to hit a receiver. The ball went off his hands and right into a diving Castaneda’s for the interception.

Liberty began a 10-play, 56-yard drive to increase their lead. Anselmo gained eight on third-and-two. A Chowchilla penalty moved the ball to the 18-yard line. Anselmo gained eight yards to the 10. However, the Hawks had to settle for a field goal and Pennington was true on his first field goal attempt of the year. Liberty led 24-8 with 5:10 left in the third quarter.

Liberty’s 16 point lead didn’t last very long — 42 seconds to be exact.

Chowchilla’s Waleed Escheik returned the ensuing kickoff 42 yards to Liberty’s 31-yard line. Grijalva carried twice — the first for 13 yards and second for 18 yards — to put the Tribe in the end zone. The two-point conversion failed and Chowchilla trailed 24-14.

Liberty started another drive, but a fumble recovery by Chowchilla gave the Tribe some momentum. Pope gained three on fourth-and-one. However, back-to-back tackles by Anselmo forced a third-and-long. Two incomplete passes, the second broken up by Sano and Person, turned the ball over on downs.

Anselmo opened the drive with his longest run of the season, a 42-yarder right up the middle to the 10-yard line.

Coach Nolte let Anselmo finish the drive. Anselmo carried for nine to the one and finished the drive with his 11th touchdown of the season from a yard out for a 31-14 lead.

On the next drive, Woolsey tried a long pass down the field that worked earlier for a 35-yard gain. This time, Sano was in position and picked off the pass for the Hawks.

Anthony Salas was the workhorse on the Liberty drive. After he gained seven, Castaneda went for 12. Salas gained 10 and nine. Whaley gained nine to the 15-yard line.

Salas got the next carry up the middle and broke a few tacklers on his way to a 15-yard touchdown run. Pennington’s extra point gave the Hawks a 38-14 lead with six minutes left in the game.

The Hawks forced another turnover on downs, but gave up the ball on Dylan Cardoza’s first-ever punt.

The Tribe drove to Liberty’s 30-yard line before Castaneda jumped in front of a Tribe receiver for his eighth interception of the year to, essentially, end the game.

A couple of knee downs by Piedra made it official.


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