By Joseph Garcia
LEANDER — Friday’s season opener pitted the Liberty Hill Panthers against a Leander Rouse team in search of its first varsity victory.
The Panthers never gave up, refused to say die and showed plenty of heart.
However, Liberty Hill’s gritty toughness was not enough to overcome four turnovers and missed opportunities as the Rouse Raiders earned their first varsity victory with a 21-0 shutout at the expense of the Panthers.
Liberty Hill’s Head Coach Jerry Vance made no excuses after the game.
“I can make a lot of excuses, but it just comes down to that we didn’t win,” Vance said. “We lost. You can put it however you want to put it. We didn’t have enough points on the scoreboard.”
Raiders’ senior quarterback Michael Botello led the Rouse victory with two passing touchdowns, including a 55-yard strike to a big target in Wesley Lewis for Rouse’s final score, with a 43-yard rushing touchdown sandwiched in between.
A.C Bible Jr. Stadium’s crowd erupted once the final whistle blew with the reality of win No. 1 going into the books.
“They did a good job, which is what I told the kids,” Vance said. “They were well coached. They did what they were supposed to do. Congratulations to them.”
Vance told his team following the loss to take and learn from the experience.
“If you crawl in a hole when you get beat like that, then you are never going to be the championship team that you should be,” Vance explained. “We have a lot of kids that got some wartime experience today. It was the first time they were in battle and it’s time to find out what they are made of.”
The Panthers return to Liberty Hill next Friday to face a Cuero team coming off an opening loss as well.
The idea that home cooking is always a big plus for a team coming off a road loss is something Coach Vance agrees with.
“(Playing at home) is always good,” he said. “We like playing there.”