Liberty stays away from let down in rout
Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Liberty lineman Diego Salas scores a touchdown on his first-ever varsity carry during Friday’s victory over the Minarets Mustangs.
O’Neills — It would only be natural for the Liberty Hawks football team to come out a little flat in last week’s battle with the Minarets Mustangs after an overtime-thrilling victory over the Fowler Redcats the week before.
However, the Hawks scored four first quarter touchdowns and cruised to a 55-0 victory over the Mustangs to improve to 7-0. The Hawks limited the Mustangs to negative 18 yards rushing and 10 yards of total offense in the game. The Hawks forced the Mustangs to punt on seven of their 10 possessions.
“That was one of the things we talked about during the week was not to have a let down,” head coach Mike Nolte said. “It was such a big game last week. Going into this one, we felt like we were the better team. To continue to get better each week for us is important, so that was the battle cry.”
Meanwhile, the Hawks scored on their first seven possessions and eight of their first nine for the win. The other possession was ended by the first half. The second half was run under a running clock.
The last two Liberty touchdowns were scored by linemen — Diego Salas and Seth Ruell. Despite the running clock, the Hawks still rushed for more than 300 yards, led by Caleb Sisco’s 143 yards. His actual total would have been 194 if not for two penalties on his two longest runs of the day.
Six different players scored touchdowns with Sisco and Vince Oberti scoring twice. Mitchell Whaley and Max Nulick added touchdowns in the rout.
“We wanted to get out of this thing healthy,” Nolte said. “Not unlike any other game, we wanted to establish ourselves. We got everybody in. Some kids got to touch the ball that aren’t going to touch it again. It makes practice better when everyone gets in the game.”
Seth Ruell led the team with seven tackles, but five of the tackles came on special teams. Jared Nolte added six tackels from the line. Salas and Nate Martinez had five tackles each. The Liberty defense recorded 11 tackles for losses that accounted for negative 38 yards for the Mustangs.
The Hawks opened the game with a 69-yard touchdown run by Sisco, but it was called back because of a penalty. However, Notle gave the ball to Sisco, again, and he gained 25 yards to the 10-yard line. Two plays later, Oberti scored his 11th rushing touchdown of the season for the early 7-0 lead.
Minarets showed some semblance of an offense by gaining positive yardage on the Hawks in its first two possessions that both ended in a three-and-out and a punt.
Sisco opened the second possession with a 22-yard run that was called back on a holding penalty. Oberti gained 17 yards to the 26-yard line. Two plays later, Oberti bounced off tacklers and ran over another at the goal line for a 22-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Another three-and-out led to a one-play drive. Whaley got the ball around the left side. he ran into a wall of players at about the 20, but he bounced off the pile and spun away. Whaley finished the run for a 45-yard touchdown and a 21-0 lead.
Nulick stuffed Minarets for a loss of six that led to another Mustangs’ punt.
Luke McFarland, who threw for more than 100 yards for the second straight game, hit Sisco for a 23-yard gain. Sisco finished the drive with a six-yard run for a 28-0 lead with 11 seconds left in the first uarter.
The Hawks gave the Mustangs their first down with a roughing the passer penalty. However, the officials didn’t let the Mustangs execute a third down play. They went from second-and-10 after a two-yard loss to a fourth-and-12 and a punt.
Oberti began the next Liberty drive with a 28-yard gain. Sisco gained 41 yards to the two and finished the drive with a touchdown run for a 35-0 lead.
McFarland opened the next drive with a 17-yard pass to Spencer Gladders. He found Dolan Dilbeck for nine yards. McFarland found Nulick for a 14-yard gain and Nulick finished the drive with an 11-yard touchdown catch to increase the lead to 42-0.
On the next Minarets play, the running back didn’t get the hand-off and fumbled. Salas recovered the ball at the one.
Coach Nolte rewarded Salas by sending him in at running back. The usual starting guard got the carry and took it into the end zone for the touchdown with 3:48 left in the half for a 48-0 lead.
Whaley stuffed Minarets for a loss of five and Nolte stuffed the Mustangs for a loss of four to force a punt.
Ivan Olivares gained 15 and Austin McKenna gained 12. Olivares gained seven to the one, and McKenna scored from a yard out. However, holding penalty was called and time ran out in the first half.
The Mustangs earned their first first down with a 13-yard pass play. Ruell stuffed Minarets for a loss of five to force the Mustangs to turn the ball over on downs to open the second half.
Olivares began the next drive with a 14-yard gain. Ruell got the carry around right end and gained 19. McFarland hit Nick Imiran for a 16-yard gain to the nine-yard line.
Ruell got the carry on the next play and was flipped heading into the end zone for the touchdown and a 55-0 lead with three minutes left in the first half.
The Mustangs had their longest drive of the game in both plays and yardage (8 plays, 27 yards), but it ended in a punt. The Hawks ran out the clock for the big win.
Liberty will host Parlier on Friday for Homecoming to continue leading the Northwest Sierra League.