By Joseph Garcia
While the varsity Panthers continue to improve each week with a 3-1 record, the JV squad is not to be overlooked as the team is now a perfect 4-0 on the season with six games remaining on the schedule.
Their latest victims were the Rockdale Tigers who came to Panther Stadium Sept. 20 with a mixture of juniors, sophomores and freshmen, since they do not field a ninth grade team. The Tigers’ inexperience showed as the JV Panthers rolled up the score for a 57-3 final.
JV Coach Robert Headrick was impressed with the team’s performance saying they played a near-perfect game of football.
“Other than a couple of simple mistakes (like) holding and illegal procedure type of things, I thought we did well,” said Headrick. “We fired off the ball, we caught passes that were thrown to us, we almost played perfect football, which is what I told (the team). We are that close, we almost played perfect football tonight if we didn’t have those illegal procedures…we were that close.”
The score was still close to begin the second quarter (14-3) before a TD put Liberty Hill up 21-3 with 7:00 on the clock. And that is when things began to unravel for Rockdale as the Panthers forced a fumble on the Tigers’ ensuing possession at their own 18-yard line.
Following an eight-yard run by Gabe Shoemaker, the Panthers turned to the passing attack as Tyler Vickers rolled out right, finding Alec Hershberger open in the end zone. With the extra point Liberty Hill was up 28-3 with 5:55 left in the first half.
The Liberty Hill defense forced another turnover when Rockdale got the ball back with Austin Thrash stepping in front of a Tiger pass for an interception. It only took two plays for Liberty Hill to score again, this time it was Shoemaker who took the handoff and went 31 yards for the score.
Liberty Hill added another TD before the end of the first half after Jamychel Johnson had a 28-yard run, followed up by a 5-yard rushing touchdown. With the point after from Hershberger, the Panthers took a 42-3 lead into the locker room at the half.
The Panthers did, however, take the foot off the pedal in the second half, scoring twice on offense with touchdowns from Johnson and Joseph Campos and once on defense for a safety to make the final score 57-3.
Leadership is one of the reasons for the JV team’s success.
“We got about 10 or 11 junior kids on JV who are good leaders,” Headrick said. “So you don’t have to worry about what they are saying in the huddle. Tyler Vickers runs a good huddle on the offensive side and (we have) a handful of junior guys on the defensive side to make sure we run right. It’s a great situation to be in with these JV kids, too bad you can’t go past district.”
Preparation against a stout and talented varsity team certainly helps get the JV ready for games on Thursdays. And you can often find a contingent of varsity players cheering on their brethren from the stands and vice versa and Friday nights.
“On Tuesdays, our JV defense comes up and plays against the (varsity) offense,” Headrick said after the win over Rockdale. “Our JV defense gets in there and could actually sack the quarterback, but we pull them off before they get there. You saw the crowd up there (in the stands) all those varsity kids cheering on our JV kids and that’s a good thing. Tomorrow night, we will see the JV kids up there in Rockdale hopefully doing the same thing. I think we just kind of feed off each other.”
Just like varsity, the JV team will face Wimberley this week, but they take their act on the road to Texans Stadium for a 7 p.m. kickoff Thursday, Sept. 27.
Headrick said while the JV team is currently undefeated, playing a team like Wimberley helps keep their shoulders to the wheel.
“We got Wimberley next week, that’s how we keep them grounded,” he said. “Their varsity is still the defending state champions until they don’t win it this year, so they think they have a good program and we think we do, too. That will be an interesting game. The last time I remember playing them was this senior class’ freshman year and we beat them pretty good here.”