Hawks just off in loss to Panthers
Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Liberty running back Dominic Castaneda goes low to find some running room against Washington Union in Friday’s loss.
Missed opportunities, dropped passes, missed tackles and other misfortunes hurt the Liberty Hawks football team in its first loss of the season last week.
The Hawks couldn’t find anything to get momentum and keep the momentum in their 24-13 loss Friday night to the Washington Union-Easton Panthers.
“I give them a lot of credit,” head coach Mike Nolte said. “They gave us a different look that our kids weren’t ready for. We knew what they had. Credit to Washington Union. They have some good players. They were more physical than us on defense.”
Liberty was held to a season low 150 yards of total offense while the Panthers gained 282 yards.
“They put together a good defensive scheme against us,” Nolte said. “They gave us a look that we weren’t ready for. It took a little while to get adjusted to it. We were able to move the ball a little bit. When you’re trying to play catch up, it’s tough.”
A late third quarter interception turned the tide of the game and gave the Panthers momentum.
“They pressured us off the edge pretty good,” Nolte said. “(Quarterback) Diego (Piedra) was never really comfortable. He had some guys open and made some good plays. None of them was a comfortable get back and hit that guy kind of play.”
Dominic Castaneda led the Hawks with 79 yards rushing to go with two interceptions on defense. Nick Anselmo scored both of Liberty’s touchdowns while rushing for 54 yards.
The Hawks had three players record double-digit tackles, led by Vince Oberti with 12. Brad Wallace and Mitchell Whaley each recorded 10. Lineman Diego Rojas had eight tackles.
After Liberty punted on its first possession, the Panthers started the drive with a 25-yard run into the Liberty side of the field. Two plays later, the Panthers tried a long pass into the end zone and Castaneda was there for the interception.
Unfortunately, the Hawks had to punt four plays later.
The Panthers then went on a nine-ply, 50-yard drive to score the first touchdown on the game with a five-yard pass completion. The point after attempt snap was high, but the Panthers’ holder ran the ball into the end zone for an 8-0 lead with 3:50 let in the first quarter.
After a trade in punts, the Hawks found their footing and started to drive down the field. Anselmo opened the drive with a 25-yard run to the Panthers’ 27-yard line. Castaneda gained 13 yards to the six.
Anselmo got the call on the next play and ran to the three. He kept his footing and center Davey Pombo pushed him into the end zone for the score. The two-point conversion attempt failed, but Liberty trailed by two with 9:30 left in the half.
From there, both teams had trouble moving the ball. The Panthers had a net gain of negative six yards on their three second quarter possessions.
After their touchdown, Liberty punted after losing four yards and turned the ball over on downs after moving the ball to the 30-yard line.
The Panthers opened the second half with an eight-play, 65-yard drive to add to their lead. A five-yard touchdown run capped the drive for a 16-6 lead with 7:42 left in the third quarter.
The Hawks responded back with a 10-play, 69-yard drive of their own. Anselmo kept the drive going with a two-yard gain on third-and-one. A personal foul penalty and a Castaneda 14-yard run moved the ball to the 20-yard line.
A pair of Panthers’ penalties moved the ball to the four-yard line. Two plays later, Anselmo scored from a yard out.
Steven Pennington made the extra point and Liberty trailed 16-13.
The Hawks defense, led by a Pombo sack and a one yard stop by Whaley and Oberti forced a punt on fourth-and-21.
Liberty was helped by a personal foul penalty, but hurt by two penalties of their own and faced a second-and-19 to open the fourth quarter.
Piedra was picked off on the first play of the fourth quarter and the Panthers turned the turnover into eight points.
After the interception, the Panthers scored on a 24-yard touchdown run highlighted by a pair of spin moves for a 24-13 lead with 8:25 left in the game.
Liberty went three-and-out on their next possession and had to punt. They never got the ball back.
The Panthers went on a 10-play drive to close the game that was keyed by a six-yard fake punt run on fourth-and-five.
The Hawks will conclude their three-game homestand with Senior Night Friday against the Kerman Lions.