Panthers defeat Salado 20-14 in overtime
By Joseph Garcia
SALADO – Two halves were not enough to decide the outcome of Friday night’s varsity game between Liberty Hill and Salado with each team winning a half by scoring 14 points a piece.
Liberty Hill seemingly dominated the first half, with home team Salado outplaying the Panthers for most of the second.
After the Salado Eagles coughed up the ball on a potential game-wining drive inside the Panther 20, Liberty Hill ran out the clock and took the game to overtime where the Panthers won 20-14 in a thrilling district opener.
On the Eagles’ overtime possession, a clipping penalty and another five-yard flag pushed them back to where rotation quarterback and kicker Ryan Simmons pushed a 47-yard field goal attempt wide right.
Now, the Panthers had their fair share of penalties, but timely fouls on Salado gave Liberty Hill favorable downs and distances.
Eventually, on first-and-goal from the Salado three, Farrell punched in the ball for the game-winning touchdown.
For the first time all season, the high-scoring Salado offense did not score in the first half, as the Liberty Hill defense was stifling and stingy.
The Panthers’ defense not only did not allow a point, but they only gave up four first downs in the first half of play while allowing the Salado Eagles 76 yards of total offense.
The Liberty Hill defense was not the only top contributor in the half. Junior tailback Jonathan Johnston scored the Panthers two touchdowns – both on the ground. The first score came after Turner returned a Salado punt to the Eagles’ 30-yard line. Next, on third-and-nine, senior quarterback Kyle Hester ran down the left side of the line and scaled the sidelined down to the six. Soon after, Johnston took it in on a toss right from five yards out to give the Panthers a 7-0 lead with 2:21 left in the first quarter.
Johnston did most of the heavy lifting for his second TD. On second down from the Liberty Hill 32, Johnston took the handoff up the middle, and broke about five tackles, spinning, weaving and racing his way to the goal line for a 68-yard score. With a Boatright extra point, the Panthers were on top 14-0 with 9:10 left in the half.
With Brandan Corn out midway through the first quarter, senior Bo Simpson and sophomore Cory Ferrell picked up the running game. In total, Liberty Hill garnered 223 yards on 30 carries.
Liberty Hill moved to 1-0 in district play and 4-2 overall.
The Panthers are back at home Friday, Oct. 14, for a showdown with the Taylor Ducks for Liberty Hill’s Homecoming.