Among the highlights of last week’s Liberty Ranch game against El Dorado for head coach Anthony Linebaugh, watching kicker Damian Ochoa’s progression may have topped it.
Ochoa kicked a 38-yard field goal and went 4 for 4 on PAT kicks in the Hawks’ 34-14 win over the Cougars, which was their second Sierra Valley Conference win.
“I was very fired up for our kicker, Damian Ochoa. He’s a two-sport athlete, he plays soccer for us, a very good soccer player. He’s been working really hard. To see him hit a couple field goals and one of them 38 yards, that was really cool. He’s been working on his craft; it’s hard trying to balance things but I was really happy to see that,” Linebaugh said.
The Hawks scored twice in the first quarter, their first touchdown coming on an Aidan Carr 40-yard run before El Dorado’s David Bell scored on a three-yard run with 7:43 to tie the game at 7-7.
Carr then completed a 15-yard pass to Isiah Ricci, who scored to help give the Hawks a 14-7 lead at the end of the quarter.
The Hawks wouldn’t waste much time scoring in the second quarter, as Ricci scored on a short run with 10:48 left.
Ochoa later kicked a field goal with 50.7 seconds left to make it a 24-7 lead for the Hawks.
The Cougars looked like they would initially make the game a competitive one. Turnovers and the Hawks’ defense stopped that effort, however, and the Cougars were kept quiet offensively until the fourth quarter, when the Cougars scored with 10:13 left on a 15-yard pass to shorten the lead to 31-14.
The Hawks added another touchdown in the third, when Carr scored with 55.1 seconds left on a quarterback keeper.
Ochoa kicked his second field goal with 5:13 left in the game, and the Hawks would end any chance at a third Cougar touchdown with Nani Brown’s interception in the final half of the quarter.
The win gave the Hawks a 4-4 record with two games left in the regular season.
They’ll face Rosemont Friday at home.
“Both teams got off to a good start early in the game. I think we’re becoming more consistent so that’s a positive,” Linebaugh said. “Every team talks about that but we’re more consistent in all three phases, we still had lapses. At the same time, we did more positive than making mistakes. If you minimize mistakes, you give yourself a chance.”
The win also continued the Hawks’ trend from last season of playing a challenging and grueling preseason but then seeing the results pay off once league starts.
The Hawks were 2-3 in the 2018 preseason, then went 3-2 in league
“No one wanted to have the preseason we had in terms of that three game stretch. It’s been about getting better. We have a lot of young kids. We only have 13 seniors, we have couple of sophomores and mostly juniors so learning how to play together, we didn’t have a lot of returning starters so it’s taken some time and we’re doing our best to deal with (injuries) as best as we can,” Linebaugh said.
The Wolverines are also 2-1 in the SVC and have the best overall record among SVC teams at 7-1.
Despite this year’s tough schedule, Linebaugh said that he’s been enjoying seeing the positives from week to week with his players.
“The communication with our guys has been better. It’s been nice to see the guys have some success and we’re looking forward to next week.”