By Joseph Garcia
The Panther offense put on a clinic Friday night in Liberty Hill’s home opener. The Hondo Owls just couldn’t stop a Liberty Hill team that was seemingly on a mission, seeking its first win of the season.
In the first half alone, Liberty Hill racked up 309 yards rushing, giving the Hondo defense fits left, right and up the middle. The Panthers finished the game with a whopping 491 yards on the ground, as the Panthers coasted to a 61-16 victory, moving to 1-1 on the season.
“We had some real bright spots; we thought we could run on them, obviously,” said Liberty Hill Head Coach Jerry Vance. “I’m just tickled to death. I was pleased with the outcome, but we have to work on some things.”
Liberty Hill’s scoring barrage began with a nine-play, 60 yard drive that resulted in Corey Ferrell’s first touchdown of the night. The score gave the Panthers a 7-0 lead with 9:13 left in the first quarter.
Following a three-and-out by the LH defense, the Panthers only took 3 minutes and 24 seconds to drive down the field to score again, this time on a six-yard run by junior Will Fromme.
The teams then exchanged possessions three times before it took one play for the Panthers to score again. Ferrell, a junior, took the handoff and sprinted 52 yards through the Owls’ defense for his second TD of the game. He ended the first half with 161 yards rushing on 18 carries.
The Panthers just would not let up either with their rapid scoring, taking a 27-0 lead with 2:18 to play in the second quarter after Ferrell scored his third touchdown of the night on a two-yard run.
At halftime, Liberty Hill was up 34-0 once Jesse Perez outran the Hondo defense to the end zone for a 49-yard score with just 1:30 to play in the half. Perez finished the first half with 111 yards on the ground on eight touches. He also had one catch, Liberty Hill’s first one completed this year, for 19 yards.
Vance had an inkling his team could pound the Owls on the ground.
“There were two things we wanted to do,” Vance said. “We wanted to come out in the first quarter and play fast, get things rolling and we did that. The second thing is we wanted to finish, I don’t know that we got that done yet.”
Scoring slowed down in the second half, but barely.
One man who did not slow, however, was Ferrell who scored his fourth TD on a one-yard rush to cap an eight-play, 61-yard drive that took just two minutes and 11 seconds off the clock.
Ferrell credited the offensive line for his big night.
“It feels pretty awesome,” said Ferrell after the game. “I always kid around about it, but to actually accomplish (four touchdowns) is pretty awesome. I have to put a lot of it on the (offensive) line. The (offensive) line did awesome tonight, they were amazing. It was just an awesome game all around.”
With the defense still pitching a shutout up until that score, Liberty Hill was up handily 41-0 with 8:25 on the clock in the third.
The shutout would not hold, however, as Hondo finally got on the board with a 26-yard field goal by K Justin Ross.
As was the theme all game, the Panthers struck quickly and didn’t even take a snap. Looking for his first big-time play of the young season, senior Jadon Durity-Boatright fielded the ensuing kickoff at the LH 10, busted through a hole in the wall and turned on the jets for a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. The highlight score put the Panthers up 47-3 and they were not done yet.
Quarterback Brandon Wells proceeded to push the tempo and tossed his first touchdown of the season on his third passing attempt.
On a fourth down, Wells rolled left and found his man, senior Austin Steed, awaiting his throw in the end zone. With the PAT, the 26-yard TD catch put Liberty Hill up 54-3.
The Panthers’ final score was punched in on second-and-goal by junior Nick Barrios, capping Liberty Hill’s offensive outpour for 61 points, including the extra point by Jeremy Rizzotto.
Ferrell was proud of the way the team played the majority of the game after last week’s loss to Giddings.
“We came out a little flat last week, so all the coaches were talking about was come out strong, come out fast and finish it,” he said. “That’s what they’ve been pounding on all week and I think we did a pretty awesome job of that at times.”
While pleased with the win, of course Coach Vance – a perfectionist – is always looking for areas to improve.
“We take a lot of pride in being grass roots if you will,” he said. “We’re going to root you out. (Towards the end) I think some of us kind of ran out of gas – mentally, not physically. As soon as we get them over that part when the body starts hurting and they give it one more step, then we are going to be real good.”
The Panthers host Smithville this Friday for Homecoming at 7:30 p.m. at Panther Stadium.