Hawks dominate youthful Hornets
Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Liberty’s Mitchell Whaley gets an arm out to ward off a Sanger West defender during Friday’s 47-7 victory over the first-year Hornets.
SANGER — In its first venture to Sanger, the Liberty Hawks football team had little trouble with the new football team to the west.
The Hawks racked up 416 yards of total offense and limited the newly-formed Sanger West Hornets to just 53 yards of total offense, including -31 on the ground. And, that includes an 87-yard catch-and-run that gave Sanger West its first score, first touchdown and first lead in school history.
From there, the Hawks scored 41 straight points and allowed just one first down the rest of the way.
“You gameplan for them,” Nolte said. “Some of the things you gameplan for doesn’t work and you go to something else. We found something that worked.”
For the second straight week, the Hawks struggled in the first quarter. However, for the second straight week, the Hawks dominated the rest of the game.
Liberty rushed for 315 yards, including 140 and two touchdowns by Vince Oberti. Three other Hawks’ running backs scored touchdowns — Ivan Olivares, Brody Harlow and Caleb Sisco.
Quarterback Luke McFarland got in on the offensive action with 102 yards passing. He threw four passes to Max Nulick for 63 yards and two touchdowns.
“We didn’t do a ton, offensively,” Nolte said. “Our running game was pretty basic. We were able to hit a couple of passes to our tight end (Nulick).”
The Hawks defense was just as dominant. Of Sanger West’s 38 plays, 20 went for negative yardage. The Hornets also had eight fumbles, four were recovered by Liberty and threw an interception.
Mitchell Whaley and Diego Salas led the Hawks with seven tackles each. Salas had a tackle for loss and a half a sack. In addition, Nate Medina, Whaley, Davey Pombo and Devon Brunn recovered Sanger West fumbles.
“Any time everybody gets in, it makes for a good next week. Everyone gets excited. They work hard and they deserve to get into the game,” Nolte said.
The Hawks got off to a slow start, offensively, and gave up the ball on downs on their first possession. The Liberty defense pushed Sanger West back and forced a punt.
Then, the Hawks drove down the field. Whaley gained six yards on third-and-three for a first down. Then, Wheley gained another 15 yards to the Sanger West 22-yard line.
McFarland hit Nulick on a comeback route. Nulick turned and ran through two Sanger West defenders at the goal line for a touchdown with 3:58 left in the first quarter.
It took Sanger West less than two minutes to take the lead. On third-and-16 from their own 13-yard line, the Hornets completed a screen pass, got away from a tackles behind the line of scrimmage and outran the rest of the Hawks for a touchdown and a 7-6 lead.
On the next play, Harlow ran away from the Hornets’ defense for a 55-yard run, but it was called back on a holding penalty. The drive was later stopped on a fumble.
Two Sanger West penalties and a run for a loss led to a third-and-39 and the Hornets had to punt.
The Hawks went on a six-play drive to take the lead for good. McFarland completed a catch-and-run to Harlow for 20 yards. Oberti went up the middle for 15 and Whaley followed with a 17-yard gain.
Sisco ran for 10 yards and a first down to the seven. Oberti finished the drive with a seven-yard run. Sisco ran in the two-point conversion for a 14-7 lead.
Harlow picked off Sanger West on the next possession and returned it 32 yards. Sisco started the drive with a 10-yard run to the Sanger West 35-yard line. McFarland hit Nulick for a 17-yard gain.
Oberti finished the drive, again, with an 18-yard run for a 20-7 lead with 6:18 left in the first half.
Another three-and-out led to a Sanger West punt. Oberti burst through for a 21-yard gain to the Sanger West 22-yard line. Harlow finished the drive with a 22-yard run around the end for the touchdown. McFarland hit Oberti, who made a great jumping catch, for the two-point conversion for a 28-7 lead at the half.
Liberty was forced to punt on its first second half possession, and Sanger West earned its only first down of the half, but fumbled on the next play with Pombo recovering.
Harlow started the drive with a 10-yard run. Oberti gained 14 two plays later. McFarland finished the drive with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Nulick for a 34-7 lead.
After a Sanger West punt, the Hawks drove down the field despite a pair of offensive penalties. Whaley gained 25-yards on a second-and-19. Oberti gained 21 yards on first-and-19. Sisco ended the drive with a four-yard touchdown run for a 40-7 lead.
Two plays later, Sanger West fumbled and Medina came up with the recovery. However, Liberty had to punt.
The Hawks got a fumble recovery from Whaley after Oberti forced it loose at the Sanger West six. Two plays later, Olivares scored from seven yards out. Whaley kicked the extra point for the 47-7 final score.
For good measure, the Hawks got a fumble recovery by Brunn on the final play of the game.