Hawks win home opener over Bobcats
Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Liberty’s Vince Oberti finds a big opening during Friday’s victory over Dos Palos. Oberti rushed for a career-high 182 yards and two touchdowns in the home opener.
A house caught fire across the street from the Liberty Hawks football stadium in more than 100 degree heat during the junior varsity game, but the varsity football team kept their fire going with a 28-14 victory over the Dos Palos Bobcats in the home opener.
The game was more lopsided than the score indicated. The Hawks outgained the Bobcats 374-157 (8.3-3.1 yards per play). The Hawks averaged 8.5 yards per rush while Dos Palos was limited to just 2.3.
“I give it a lot of credit to our guys up front on offense,” head coach Mike Nolte said. “They played really well. They had a tall task. Our guys are about 190 pounds and their guys are 300 pounds. Trying to block those guys are tough. I knew our backs had to be fast. We were moving them enough to run our stuff.”
Liberty also recorded five quarterback sacks and recorded 49 yards for losses. The defense held the Bobcats to just 59 rushing yards.
“Their quarterback moves pretty good, but we pressured him well,” Nolte said. “He caused some problems, but our guys did a good job of containing him.”
Four-year defensive line starter Davey Pombo led the team with nine tackles. Max Nulick, Jared Nolte, Diego Salas and Nate Martinez each recorded a quarterback sack.
Running back Vince Oberti had his third straight 100-yard rushing game. He rushed for a career high 182 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught a 43-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring.
“Vince does a real good job of hitting things fast,” Nolte said. “They have to be quick reactors. They aren’t. He’s running fast and sees things good. He running well right now.”
Oberti has 427 rushing yards in the first three games, averaging 109 yards per game. He is averaging more than 13 yards per carry.
Caleb Sisco rushed for 64 yards, Brody Harlow rushed for 48 and Mitchell Whaley added a touchdown.
“It felt like we wore them down. We moved the ball pretty good,” Nolte said.
The Hawks opened the game with a six-play, 57-yard drive for the first touchdown of the game.
On third down, quarterback Luke McFarland hit Oberti on a five-yard pass. Oberti broke the initial tackle and ran down the right sideline. He broke another tackle at about the five yard line and ran into the end zone for a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game.
The Hawks drove inside Dos Palos’ 10-yard line on the next drive after a 15-yard run by Sisco. Harlo scored on a seven-yard touchdown run, but a holding penalty nullified the touchdown and McFarland was sacked on the next play.
The Bobcats drove into Liberty territory, but a penalty pushed them back. Dos Palos got a 17-yard gain on third-and-10, and went for it on fourth-and-two. Whaley and Oberti teamed up for a five-yard loss on the next play to turn the ball over.
Three plays later, McFarland was intercepted. The two teams exchanged punts before the Bobcats got a non-call in their favor.
Sisco sent a punt to the Dos Palos 45-yard line. The Dos Palos returner tried to receive the ball near his shoetops and appeared to have put a knee down to end the play. However, the officials let the play go and the Dos Palos returner took the ball to the nine-yard line. Four plays later, Dos Palos tied the score with 2:47 left in the first half.
Dos Palos got the ball to open the second half, but went backwards after a sack by Pombo and Nolte. Dos Palos had to punt on fourth-and-nine.
“I knew coming out of halftime tied, we had to get a stop on defense, and we did. We got a big play right off the bat and got down there to score,” Nolte said.
Oberti opened the drive with a 13-yard run. Sisco carried for 25-yards to the 18-yard line. Oberti carried up the middle for an 18-yard touchdown for a 14-7 lead.
The Hawks forced another punt, but the Hawks are also forced to punt despite a 13-yard run by Oberti and a 12-yard run by Harlow.
Liberty forced a three-and-out and it didn’t take long for the Hawks to take advantage.
Oberti got the hand-off and went off the left side. He ran into a pile and spun out of it. He outran the Dos Palos defense for a 45-yard touchdown run and a 21-7 lead.
Dos Palos went on a 16-play, 75-yard drive to cut the lead to seven. Dos Palos converted two third downs on the drive and scored on fourth-and-goal from the 15-yard line in the fourth quarter.
The Hawks quickly put the game away on their next possession. Oberti opened the possession with a 20-yard run and a 54-yard run to get the ball to the six-yard line. Two plays later, Whaley scored for a 28-14 lead after Christian Haney kicked his fourth extra point
The Liberty defense stepped up on Dos Palos’ next drive. Nate Martinez sacked the Dos Palos quarterback on first down. Nulick sacked the quarterback for a six-yard loss and forced a punt.
The Hawks ran out the clock. They will open Northwest Sequoia League play Friday at Yosemite-Oakhurst.