Outnumbered Hawks fall to Rough Riders
Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Liberty’s Mitchell Whaley avoids a tackler during a 23-yard first quarter touchdown run during Friday’s loss to the Roosevelt Rough Riders.
FRESNO — In its first-ever meeting with the Roosevelt-Fresno Rough Riders, the 23-man Liberty Hawks were worn down by the 50-plus member Riders in a 21-13 loss at Sunnyside Stadium in Fresno.
The Hawks had just six possessions in the game. Meanwhile, the Rough Riders ran 59 plays and gained 284 yards. Roosevelt’s three touchdown drives came after a combined 34 plays. The Rough Riders ended the game with a 15-play, 61-yard drive.
“I’m proud of my team and proud of how they fought all game long,” head coach Mike Nolte said. “Roosevelt is a good football team. My kids need to know they fought against a very good team.”
The Hawks did their best to keep pace with the Rough Riders. They had a 13-play, 95-yard drive to cut the lead to eight, but couldn’t get the ball back in the end zone. Liberty got the ball inside the Roosevelt five-yard line, but couldn’t get it across the end zone. Roosevelt took the turnover on downs and ran out the clock.
“It was tough to drive down the field and not get any points,” Nolte said.
Roosevelt relied on one main ball carrier to shoulder the offensive load. He accounted for 225 yards of total offense. He had 32 carries for 170 yards and accounted for almost 80 percent of the Roosevelt offense.
The Hawks’ defense did what they could and produced eight tackles for loss, including three sacks that resulted in 33 negative yards, but couldn’t come up with a late stop.
Mitchell Whaley led the Hawks with 90 yards rushing and a touchdown. Dominic Castaneda rushed for 76 yards.
The Hawks will get a week off before beginning North Sequoia League play on Oct. against Yosemite-Oakhurst.
“We will get a couple guys back from the bye,” Nolte said. “We will rebound. We’ll get off the mat and keep fighting.”
The Rough Riders got the opening kick-off and promptly went on a 13-play, 71-yard drive for a touchdown. On the drive, Roosevelt overcame a Vince Oberti quarterback sack. Roosevelt answered the sack with a 22-yard, first-down run.
The Hawks forced a fourth down, but Rosoevelt gained two yards and scored three plays later for a 7-0 lead after an almost seven minute drive.
Liberty quickly responded with a five-play, 55-yard drive that was set up by a 35-yard kick-off return by Oberti.
On third-and-10, quarterback Luke McFarland hit Max Nulick for a 30-yard catch-and run to the Roosevelt 25-yard line. Two plays later, Whaley took an inside hand-off 25 yards into the end zone for a touchdown.
The Hawks forced a three-and-out on Roosevelt’s next possession, highlighted by a Nulick quarterback sack.
After a Liberty punt, the Rough Riders went on a 13-play, 65-yard drive to take the lead. The Rough Riders converted two third downs and a fourth down on the drive.
The big play was a 14-yard pass play on third-and-eight from the Liberty 26-yard line.
Two plays later, Roosevelt found the end zone for a 14-77 lead with 3:39 left in the first half.
Liberty didn’t open the second half on the right foot as Oberti was hammered after taking a bouncing kick-off at the five-yard line.
However, the Hawks went on their longest drive of the year. Castaneda opened the drive with a 17-yard gain. After Castaneda gained nine, Oberti converted a third-and-one with a one-yard run.
Dante Ciritella caught an eight-yard pass and Oberti gained four on third-and-two.
Whaley then gained 17 yards and 16 yards two plays later to move the ball to the 14-yard line. Two more runs by Whaley put the ball at the one and Oberti finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge.
The point after was no good and Roosevelt led 14-13 with 7:18 left in the third quarter.
The Rough Riders came back with an eight-play, 67-yard drive to open a 21-13 lead. The key play was a 15-yard run on third-and-10. Three plays later, Roosevelt, on a screen, broke a couple of Liberty tackles and went down the left sideline for a 45-yard catch-and-run for the lead with three minutes left in the third.
The Hawks gave up the ball on a three-and-out.
However, the Liberty defense stepped up after allowing an initial first down. Oberti and Nulick combined for a tackle for loss. After an incomplete pass, Roosevelt was forced to punt.
Castaneda opened the drive with a 27-yard run to the 29-yard line. Three plays later, Castaneda gained 15 to the eight. Whaley gained six to the two-yard line.
However, Liberty lost seven yards on its next two plays and McFarland threw incomplete on fourth-and goal from the seven to turn the ball over on downs.
The Rough Riders converted two third downs and ran the clock out to secure an eight-point victory.