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Second quarter binge lifts Hawks

Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune

Liberty’s Dominic Castaneda finds some running room in Friday’s victory over Madera South. Castaneda scored two touchdowns and rushed for 98 yards in the win.


After the Madera South Stallions cut the Liberty Hawks football team’s lead to two in the second quarter, a four minute blitz gave the Hawks control for the rest of a 45-21 victory.

Madera South took momentum of the game from the Hawks after scoring a touchdown to open the second quarter to cut the lead to 16-14 Friday night.

However, a series of unfortunate events for the Stallions, and fortunate events for the Hawks, changed the outcome of the game.

The Stallions drove the ball inside the Liberty 10-yard line, but were backed up and missed a field goal. Madera South forced a Liberty punt, but two plays later, Liberty’s Dominic Castaneda picked off Madera South’s Jessie Ford and returned the interception 57 yards for a touchdown.

Then, a punt snap went into the end zone for a safety and the Hawks drive down the field to score another touchdown for a 32-14 halftime lead and, basically, closed the game.

On top of that, the Hawks opened the second half with a 12-play, 62-yard drive to open a 24-point lead.

“It was a big momentum swing,” Liberty head coach Mike Nolte said. “Both bad snaps on punts helped us. Our drive to open the half was good. Any time you can come out of halftime, put together a long drive, it can be demoralizing for the other team.”

“It literally was the exact kind of thing that happens in this kind of COVID thing we’ve all been in,” said Madera South head coach Matt Johnson. “It kind of snowballed. We haven’t played a game, yet. You don’t know how to respond. We rallied back. Those guys are better. Had we caught them a few weeks down the road, it could have been better. They had an extra few layers of their playbook. They got us.”

The Hawks battled back after allowing a kick-off return for a touchdown for a second straight week to make it not matter at the end. And, the Hawks overcame some adversity to pick up the victory.

“I’m happy to see them step up,” Nolte said. “Two weeks in a row, our defense is flying around. We have talented kids on offense. Our kids really stepped up to the challenge they brought. They had good sized. I think we were undersized. Their team brought a lot of challenges. It was a good game for us to answer some questions about our younger kids. You know what to expect from the veterans who have been around. The younger kids, you don’t know until you see it happen. They answered the bell.”

The Hawks wore down the Stallions. Liberty outgained Madera South 279-124 and ran off 65 plays to Madera South’ 45. The Hawks also had three of their five touchdown drives go for 10 or more plays and their other drive was a nine-play drive.

Castaneda led the Hawks with 98 yards rushing with two touchdowns. Nick Anselmo added 88 yards and two touchdowns. Nolan Sewell and Diego Rojas added touchdowns.

“Dominic is a game changer on both sides of the ball,” Nolte said. “We’re fortunate that he’s playing for us and not the other team. He’s exciting.”

Ford led the Stallions with 100 yards rushing, but Madera South didn’t have another rusher with more than 25 yards and each ball carrier had a carry for negative yards.

The Liberty defense forced a three-and-out on Madera South’s opening drive. The punt snap went over punter Rudy Valdez’s head. Valdez recovered the ball in the Liberty end zone and was tackled by Vince Oberti for a safety and an early 2-0 Liberty lead.

The Hawks began their opening drive at midfield after the safety kickoff.

A defensive holding penalty on an incomplete pass led to a first down. Castaneda ran for 12 on third-and-four to keep the drive going. Anselmo carried for six to the 11 and Mitchell Whaley carried for three to the 11. Castaneda finished the drive with a three-yard touchdown run.

On the ensuing kickoff, Madera South’s Tayte Grantham mishandled Steven Pennington’s kick. Grantham recovered the ball at the 10 and ran right though the Liberty coverage team for a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown with 6:56 left in the first quarter.

Liberty went on another long drive. Anselmo gained 11 on third-and-one for a first down. Diego Piedra scrambled for nine on third-and-8. Anselmo then carried for 15-yards to the one-yard line and finished the drive with a one-yard plunge on the next play. Pennington’s extra point gave the Hawks a 16-7 lead with 1:55 left in the first quarter.

Madera South used a big plays to get back in the game. On fourth-and-two, Ford scrambled for 39-yards to the seven-yard line. Ridge Castellon scored two plays later on the first play of the second quarter to cut the Liberty lead to two.

The Hawks were forced to punt on their next possession. After a 17-yard punt, the Stallions were in good field position.

A pass interference penalty helped get the Stallions to the 24-yard line. Ford scrambled for a 20-yard gain to the four.

However, back-to-back tackles by Brad Wallace on Castellon and Ford forced third down. After an incomplete pass and a false start penalty, Valdez tried a 31-yard field goal and missed left.

The Hawks took over and went three-and-out and a punt gave the Stallions good field position, again.

However, three plays later, Castaneda jumped in front of an intended receiver to pick off Ford’s pass. He eluded tacklers all the way into the end zone for a touchdown with 3:55 left in the half.

Madera South started the next possession at its 18-yard line and were forced to punt after another Wallace tackle for loss. The punt snap went over Valdez’s head again and he jumped on the ball in the end zone for another safety to increase Liberty’s lead to 25-14.

The Hawks had plenty of time to add to their lead before halftime. Castaneda went for 30-yards on the first play of the drive to the 15-yard line. Anselmo gained eight and Whaley added five more. Anselmo finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown run with 59 seconds left in the half. Pennington’s extra point gave the Hawks a 32-14 halftime lead.

Liberty kept driving the ball after the half. Castaneda gained 15 on the first play of the second half. Whaley gained seven on third-and-three. Piedra completed his first pass of the season, to Tyler Person, for a seven-yard gain on fourth-and-four.

Three plays later, Piedra completed his second, this time to the back of the end zone where Rojas was waiting for a nine-yard touchdown pass and a 38-14 lead.

After forcing another Stallions’ punt, Liberty went on another 12-play drive. On third-and-15, Piedra threw incomplete for Castaneda, but the Stallions were called for pass interference for a Liberty first down.

Anselmo gained five on third-and-three and gained 16 on third-and-seven to get the ball inside the 10. Three plays later, Nolan Sewell scored from five yards out for a 45-14 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter

Two plays into the next drive, Madera South fumbled and Anselmo recovered for the Hawks. Liberty turned the ball over on downs.

Madera South started to drive when Ford gained 27 yards on the first play. Ford gained 10 more on fourth-and-five.

However, after sacks from Owen Burgin and Max Nulick, Madera South faced a third-and-26 and turned the ball over on downs.

The Hawks went three-and-out. On the punt, the snap went over Castaneda’s head and he recovered at the two-yard line.

Madera South’s Angel Moreno scored on the next play for the 45-21 final score.



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