Panthers take on State Champ Wimberley

Liberty Hill (3-1) 

vs. Wimberley (2-2)

7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28

 Panther Stadium, Liberty Hill

 

Wimberley High School

Enrollment: 699

Coach: Weldon Nelms

Mascot: Texan

Colors: Red/Navy/White

League: 27-3A (DII)

 

Still the reigning state champions, Wimberley (2-2) lost a plethora of talent to graduation. But, the Texans have 13 starters back this season, including versatile players like Kolby Kelley and Alden Mann, who will lead the team on both offense and defense.

“Graduation was not kind to them; it’s harder in 3A to replace the kind of talent that they had last year,” said Liberty Hill Coach Jerry Vance. “That being said, the kids that (Coach Weldon Nelms) has playing for him right now are playing lights out.”

Through four games this season, Kelley lead the Texans in rushing with 242 yards on 46 attempts and two TDs. From a quarterback standpoint, Wimberley lost the poise and leadership of Brennen Blakemore, so in steps the duo of senior Reed Jones and sophomore Colton Cerday.

The two QBs have combined for 363 yards passing with two touchdowns and four interceptions. Their leading receiver is Bryce Rainwater who hauled in just eight receptions for 168 yards.

Wimberley tends to use a balanced attack of passes and rushes on offense, but either way the plays should be well executed since Coach Nelms tends to run a tight ship.

Rainwater does it on defense too as he returned an interception 32 yards last week for six of the Texans’ 24 points in a 24-10 win over La Vernia.

Wimberley is seemingly relying heavily on its defense this year led by linebacker Mann (104 tackles, 5 sacks, 3 interceptions in 2011).  Mann and Kelley, a defensive lineman, earned all-district honors in 2011 after playing on a defense that gave up 10.8 points per game in its last five playoff games. The players also won all-district accolades on offense, as Kelley was a first-team running back and Mann earned second-team honors on the offensive line.

The two schools have played each other every year of Coach Vance’s tenure, except the last two years due to scheduling conflicts. But Vance always looks forward to playing Wimberley and facing off against Texans Head Coach Weldon Nelms.

“It’s always fun to play Wimberley and Coach Nelms because the kids are disciplined, they play hard and play the game the right way,” Vance explained. “No quarter is asked either way and you go out and try to beat the other guy just as bad as you can. I know that and (Coach Nelms) knows that.”

Wimberley and Liberty Hill have each won two state championships since 2005, and the Panthers will test Wimberley’s defense with a Slot-T offense that has thrived in the no huddle. Coach Vance shared his views about the fact that the two schools have four championships between them in the past seven seasons.

“I think that points to the quality of football that’s in Central Texas,” he said. “It’s very competitive since I’ve been here in the last 12 years. Burnet was in the state finals for two years; Bandera, which was in our district, won a state championship in 2004; and Wimberley obviously with the two state championships and us. I think 3A football in Central Texas is as good as any in the state.”

Any senior player who played on the varsity team as a freshman faced off against the Texans. So many of the current players have no idea what is in store when Wimberley brings its fans to Panther Stadium.

However, Coach Vance knows it will be quite an atmosphere and he will relay that to his players and he passes the message along to the Liberty Hill fans as well.

“This is a big game,” Vance said. “Other than our seniors our kids haven’t played Wimberley, so to some of these kids it may not be as big of a thing as it has been in the past when we played them every year. But it’s a great rivalry and a great game of high school football that I believe are two of the best-coached teams in the state. (Fans) need to come out and wear a lot of purple, be loud and be obnoxious to anybody in blue.”

- Joseph Garcia

The Independent Sports