By Joseph Garcia
The Liberty Hill freshmen Panthers officially kicked off the football season on August 30 when they hosted the Giddings Buffaloes. They fought till the last whistle blew, but played from behind and couldn’t quite make up the deficit.
In their first game of the early season, the freshmen fell to Giddings 52-28, moving to a 0-1 record. Liberty Hill coaches were pleased with the effort with which the team played.
“Well, this is my second year here and what I’ve learned about Liberty Hill kids is that they’ll fight,” said freshmen coach Joel Gotcher. “There wasn’t any give up. I’ve got to do a better job of coaching and communicating exactly what I want them to do and we’ll be a better football team then. But the effort was there and I’m really proud of them.”
Things looked promising early on as the Panthers’ first possession was an 11-play drive that took then down to the 2-yard line. But a false start followed by a fumble gave the Buffaloes the ball.
Giddings would take advantage with an eight-play drive that resulted in a 24-yard touchdown pass on a fourth-and-5 with 12 seconds left in the first quarter.
Liberty Hill, however, responded immediately as Tanner Vrabel received the kickoff from the 22-yard line, bolted past the first wave of tacklers and took it down the right sideline. Vrabel was nearly tackled via horse collar at the 10, but shook the defender off and went in for the score.
The two-point conversion was no good, making the score 8-6 Giddings with nine minutes to play in the second quarter.
Each team scored again before the first half was over. Giddings put points on the board with a 15-yard pass to make the score 14-6, then on a 72-yard run up the middle for a 20-6 advantage.
Liberty Hill would not let down as just four plays later on second-and-10, quarterback Keylan Herman found Kalub Foster for a 39-yard gain. Five snaps after it was Herman to Foster again, this time for an 18-yard TD in the right side of the end zone.
At the half, Giddings was up 20-12.
The second half began with a nice return by Giddings to the Liberty Hill 40. It only took the Buffaloes five plays to score from there, on a 16-yard TD pass with 7:15 on the clock in the first quarter for a score of 28-12.
With the Panthers down 36-12 in the third quarter, Vrabel scored another TD on a 32-yard run. He also scored on the two-point conversion to pull Liberty Hill to within 16 at 36-20 with 1:23 left in the third period.
Liberty Hill would get one more score on a 40-yard run by Colton Cunningham, shedding tackles along the way. Cunningham punched in the two-point attempt for a 44-28 score, but it was not enough as Giddings matched the TD for a 52-28 win.
Coach Gotcher knows the team can and will get better as the season progresses.
“They are playing really hard and they are going to get better every week,” he said. “That’s a good football team that we played and (Giddings) seemed to play a little bit harder and had a few more plays kind of go their way. That’s one game and we’re going to come back next week and work really hard and try to get a win.”
The freshmen Panthers will travel to Killeen to take on Shoemaker Thursday, Sept. 6, with a 5 p.m. kickoff.