The most successful high school football program in the Central Section over the past three seasons has added another feather to its cap.
Liberty-Madera Ranchos used a dominant defensive performance to beat Central Valley Christian 24-6 in the Division IV championship on Friday night.
“We have an amazing group of kids,” Liberty-Madera Ranchos head coach Mike Nolte said. “I am so lucky to be their coach and so proud of everything they have accomplished.”
Liberty is 37-2 over the past three seasons with three section titles, the past two in D-V. The Hawks own the longest winning streak in the section at 18 games.
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The Liberty defense held a CVC offense that had scored 40 or more points in 10 games this season to just six points and 229 yards. Cavaliers running backs Macintyre Garbani and Alex te Velde came into the game averging 170.3 yards as a duo, but were limited to just 36 yards on 16 carries.
“We took them out of what they were comfortable with early in the game,” Nolte said. “It took major hard work from our coaches and players, and they executed the game plan perfectly.”
With the defense busy limiting CVC, the Liberty offense went away from its ground-and-pound attack to strike first.
After blocking a Cavaliers punt on the opening possession, Liberty needed just three plays to find the end zone. On a third down, Zach Richey found Joseph Castaneda in the back of the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown. Castaneda toed the back line and hauled in the pass that sailed just over the outstretched arms of a CVC defender.
“Zach Richey is a great quarterback, and that play was just one example of it,” Nolte said. “He is going to go out there and make plays with his arm.”
Liberty took a 14-0 lead into the fourth quarter, and its defense came up with the play of the game on the opening play of the final 12 minutes.
Facing fourth-and-1 at the Liberty 5, CVC lined up 6-foot-3 wide receiver Steve Van Grouw in wildcat formation. The junior took the direct snap and ran around the edge to the right and was brought down by a group of Hawks inches short of a first down.
Two possessions later, Chad Wallace put away the game with a 48-yard touchdown run to push Liberty’s lead to 21-0 with 6:39 to play.