Obstacles too much for Hawks to overcome
Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Liberty running back Vince Oberti finds a hole in Friday’s los to Templeton. He led the Hawks with a career-high 112 yards rushing and a touchdown.
TEMPLETON — About an hour before his team was to take a three-hour bus ride to the coast, Liberty Hawks football coach Mike Nolte found out three starters wouldn’t make the trip due to COVID close contact tracing.
Two of the three starters were two-way players on the offensive and defensive line and their absences were noticeable in Friday’s 29-14 loss to the Templeton Eagles.
On top of the missing players that saw his roster go from 26 players to 19, the Liberty coaches’ headsets weren’t operating and that just added to the obstacles the Hawks had to overcome.
Templeton took advantage of the missing players and gained 425 yards of total offense. Running back Jack Wood accounted for 251 yards of the offense (222 yards on the ground). Austin Marquart rushed for 111 yards. The pair accounted for 85 percent of Templeton’s offense.
Meanwhile, the Hawks, without one-third of its offensive line struggled to find consistency. The one player Nolte could lean on was Vince Oberti. He rushed for 112 yards on 19 carries and scored one of the team’s two touchdowns. Oberti also led the team with 12 tackles.
Seth Ruell had special team tackles on all three kickoffs for the Hawks and finished with six tackles. Estaban Somilleda had 10 tackles. Max Nulick and Diego Salas each had nine tackles.
Although the Hawks allowed 425 of total offense, there were times they were dominant. Liberty recorded 14 tackles for losses and a quarterback sack. They had a fumble and Templeton had 52 negative yards.
Early in Friday’s game, it looked like the Hawks would be unfazed by the absences. The defense of Juan Corona, Diego Salas and Oberti forced the Eagles to give up the ball on downs at midfield.
From there, the Hawks marched down the field. Dominic Castaneda rushed for seven yards and a first down. Oberti went up the middle for 12 yards and then 13 yards to the 12-yard line.
On third-and-9, on an inside counter, Castaneda scored virtually untouched from 11 yards out for the first score of the game. Christian Haney made the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
Wood scored the first of his two touchdowns with a 38-yard touchdown run on a sweep to the left. The extra point was missed, but Templeton got on the board.
Two plays later, the Hawks fumbled and Templeton recovered. On the next play, on a ball to the end zone, Mitchell Sano took the ball away from the Templeton receiver for an interception. Instead of ruling Sano in the end zone where he ended up, the officials placed the ball on the one-yard one.
On the next play, Castaneda couldn’t find an opening out of the end zone and was tackled for a safety.
From there, it was all Templeton. They scored two touchdowns in the first half. Jared Nolte recovered a fumble for the defensive highlight of the second quarter.
However, while Templeton took a 22-7 hafltime lead, the Hawks, after the first touchdown, gained just 79 yards on five possessions.
Injuries forced the Eagles to turn to their third-string quarterback in the second half and it gave the Hawks a chance.
The defense gave up just 53 yards in four second half possessions.
However, the Liberty offense produced just 49 yards on four of six second half possessions.
Facing a third-and-12 from the 19-yard line in the fourth quarter, Wood broke through with a run around the right side for an 81-yard touchdown to give the Eagles a 29-7 lead.
The Hawks came right back to drive the ball into Templeton territory after an Oberti 16-yard rush to open the drive. However, they were forced to punt.
Two plays later, Max Nulick came up with a fumble recovery for the Hawks.
Two run plays to Oberti gave the Hawks a first down. Luke McFarland found Castaneda for an 11-yard gain to the three. Oberti finished the drive off with a three-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 29-14 with five minutes left in the game.
The Hawks tried an onside kick, but Templeton recovered and ran out the clock with a nine-play, 35-yard drive to hand Liberty its second loss of the season.