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Hawks rebound for home opening win

Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune

Liberty’s Caleb Sisco runs by a Caruthers defender during a long gain Friday night. He led the Hawks with 100 yards rushing in a 30-6 victory.


The Liberty Hawks football team dominated the Caruthers Blue Raiders in front of a packed home stadium for its first victory of the season.

The Hawks defense allowed just 111 yards of offense from the Blue Raiders until the last drive of the game against mostly reserves.

Meanwhile, the Hawks rushed for more than 300 yards an had five ball carriers rush for more than 40 yards in the game.

“It was an awesome crowd tonight,” head coach Mike Nolte said. “I was happy with the way the stands were filled. It was like a homecoming crowd. They were lively and the kids fed off that.”

After throwing an interception on the first drive of the game, the Hawks scored touchdowns on three of the next four drives and five of the next seven for a complete victory over Caruthers.

“We got off to a little shaky start on offense,” Nolte said. “We moved the ball down and shoot ourselves on the foot again. It could have been out of hand at halftime. It was fun. The kids played hard. They were excited. It’s good to see the team come out of their shell a little bit.”

While dynamic playmaker Dominic Castaneda was hemmed in by the Caruthers’ defense, Nolte found a play that worked and went to the well often. Caleb Sisco was the recipient of the play call and made Nolte look like a genius. Sisco led the Hawks with 100 yards rushing on nine carries. He had two rushes over 20 yards while constantly bouncing off tacklers and juking others.

His back-up, Max Nulick, also found some running room. He rushed for 45 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown to cap the Liberty scoring.

“I’ve been on that end when the teams are running and you can’t stop it,” Nolte said. “It’s demoralizing. If we can do that to a team, then, that’s what we’re going to do. Nulick runs hard. We did a good job of utilizing a lot of different kids in the backfield. It only makes things better and gets kids more excited.”

Castaneda did score a pair of touchdowns while rushing for 45 yards. Mitchell Whaley rushed for 45 yards and Nolan Sewell gained 42. Vince Oberti added a short touchdown.

One of the big stories of the night was the Liberty defense. They forced Caruthers into six punts and just eight first downs. The Blue Raiders were just 2-of-10 on third downs. Hunter Babb rushed for 122 yards, but 65 came on the final drive.

Oberti led the Hawks with nine tackles. Diego Salas, Mitchell Sano and Whaley each had six.

Helped by a 17-yard gain out of punt formation by Castaneda, the Hawks got themselves inside the Caruthers 10-yard line after a 30-yard pass from Luke McFarland to Dante Ciritella.

However, two plays later, McFarland was intercepted in the end zone.

The Hawks’ defense, led by Salas, Nulick, Sewell and Oberti forced a punt.

With good field position, it took the Hawks just four plays to score. Sisco gained eight for a first down. Sewell gained 12 to the seven. Castaneda finished the drive with his first touchdown of the game.

The only thing that went wrong for the Hawks wereextra points. Liberty missed all five tries.

After Caruthers got a first down by penalty, the defense stepped up. Davey Pombo stuffed a ball carrier for a loss of one.

After an incomplete pass, Oberti made a solid open-field tackle for a short gain to force a punt.

Despite a 12-yard pass from McFarland to Diego Rojas, the Hawks were forced to punt.

The Liberty defense gave the ball right back to the offense. Oberti and Tyler Edwards stuffed Caruthers for a one-yard loss. Nathan Medina, Oberti and Salas stop Babb after a gain of six. An incomplete pass forced a punt and set up another Liberty touchdown drive.

Whaley started the drive with a 25-yard run. He later gained six on third-and-four. Sisco burst through the Caruthers defense for 23 yards to the 13-yard line.

Two plays later, Castaneda scored from 10 yards out for a 12-0 lead with 4:31 left in the half.

The defense forced another three-and-out and Sisco started the next drive with a 26-yard gain to the 25-yard line.

Oberti followed with a run for 10 yards to the 15. Whaley gained eight for a first-and-goal. Three plays later, Oberti went right up the middle for a one-yard touchdown run with 59 seconds left in the half for a 18-0 halftime lead.

Liberty allowed an initial first down on Caruthers’ first drive of the second half, but forced a punt.

Castaneda opened the second half with a 12-yard run, but the Hawks had to punt.

The Blue Raiders got a 21-yard pass play to open their next drive. Edwards stuffed Babb for a loss of three. Pombo tacklees Babb after a three-yard gain. Then, Oberti made another open-field tackle for a gain of one. On fourth down, Caruthers hrew incomplete.

The Hawks started the drive on their own 31. Sisco gained 13-yards on second down. Sewell followed with another 13-yard gain. Sisco gained another 10-yards for a first down.

On fourth-and-13, McFarland found Rojas on a seam route up the middle. After making the catch, Rojas cut to the outside and got a Castaneda block to open the sideline. Rojas rumbled down the sideline for a 39-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown and a 24-0 lead.

Caruthers threw three straight incomplete passes on their next drive and the Hawks began their longest drive of the game.

Sisco gained eight on third-and-nine and pulled Caruthers offsides on fourth down. Oberti then gained 10, Sisco followed with an eight-yard gain.

Nulick went for 11, Oberti gained six and Sewell gained five for a first down to the 21-yard line.

Nulick got the hand-off and went through a big hole on the left side of the line, ran through a couple of tacklers and scored Liberty’s final touchdown of the game.

Caruthers got a 54-yard run by Babb on their next possession to get them in inside the 10-yard line. Despite a penalty, Babb finished the drive with an 11-yard touchdown run with three minutes left in the game.

Nulick gained 13 on the next drive and Sewell gained five for a first down that allowed McFarland to take a knee for a 30-6 victory.



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