By Joseph Garcia
With 1:32 left on the clock, the lights on the home side of Panther Stadium went out and the game was called then and there. But from the onset, Liberty Hill played lights out on both sides of the ball against a Smithville team looking to stay perfect on the season.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, a team that apparently scoffed at the size of Liberty Hill’s football team, were handed a 49-13 defeat as the Panthers improved to 2-1 on the season.
Smithville moved to 2-1 on the season as well.
“We came out with a little bit of an attitude and that’s what I wanted to see,” said Liberty Hill Coach Jerry Vance. “(Smithville) had some success as of late and they were really feeding off of that. (Smithville) was laughing at us when we came out because we were so small. I like it when people laugh at us; we score a lot of points against those people.”
The Panthers wanted a fast start and they got it following a 29-yard kickoff return by Jason Reeves. The Panthers started their first possession looking like a well-oiled machine.
After first down runs by Cory Ferrell and Brandon Wells, senior Jesse Perez took the handoff and ran around the left side of the line and made a man miss, scampering in for a 13-yard touchdown.
The seven play drive took 2 minutes and 10 seconds and covered 45 yards to put Liberty Hill up 7-0 at the 9:42 mark in the first with a good point after attempt. Perez ended the first half with 86 yards on the ground.
Liberty Hill’s defense then caused a fumble on Smithville’s first possession, recovered by Zach Perez. The Panthers could not make anything of the turnover, however. But after forcing a turnover and downs and a Smithville punt, the Panthers offense took over.
A personal foul on the punt gave Liberty Hill possession at the Tigers’ 28. Perez got the Panthers down to the one-yard line with a 27-yard run. On the very next play, Will Fromme took it in to give Liberty Hill a 14-0 lead with all zeros showing on the clock.
The “Purple Thunder” defense held the Tigers on a goal line stand and even forced a fumble. But Jadon Durity-Boatright was unable to come up with the ball, giving the Tigers a fourth-and-8 from the nine. That’s when Jacob Covington and Jacob Dudgeon combined for a quarterback sack.
As they’ve done in their previous two games, the Smithville Tigers’ defense scored, this time it was a fumble recovery and run-in by K’halil McCathern for a 28-yard touchdown. The 14-7 score would remain at halftime.
The second half was a whole different story as Liberty Hill outscored Smithville 35-6.
Liberty Hill’s defense held the Tigers to just six points offensively. But Smithville did not do itself any favors, accumulating 85 yards in penalties in the third quarter alone.
The visiting Tigers committed eight personal fouls on the evening, making it obvious that they were getting frustrated and trying any tactic possible to gain some sort of edge.
But Liberty Hill did not stoop to that level, instead playing a tough, dignified game of which the fans and Coach Vance could be proud.
“I think we came out with that attitude that we are going to take care of business,” Vance said. “We are going to play the game the way it’s supposed to be played and I’m proud of our kids for not dipping down to that kind of stuff. I can’t say enough about our kids’ attitudes and the way they were disciplined and we did what we were supposed to do and play the game.”
In that third period, Perez earned his second TD of the game on a 15-yard run that he stretched left before hitting the hole and finding the end zone for six. Perez ended the game leading the Panthers in rushing with 192 yards with an incredible 13.71 yards per carry average.
Ferrell, a junior fullback, followed that up by scoring three of Liberty Hill’s last four touchdowns, giving him eight on the season with a team-high 463 yard rushing.
Defensively, Liberty Hill allowed 203 yard of offense to Smithville and forced two fumbles, recovering one. Wells also did his part with an interception to end the first half.
Christian Anderson led the Panthers with six solo tackles with Jacob Covington, Zach Perez and Jacob Dudgeon recording one sack a piece. Dudgeon also had six tackles for a loss.
“(The defense) played a great game, a super game,” Vance said. “When we were shuffling kids in and out you are going to give up some of those points, it’s just one of those deals.”
In the end, the Panthers may have been the smaller team, but dominated the Tigers for a final score of 49-13 in a statement game at home.
The Panthers will look to stay hot as they travel to Rockdale (2-1) on Friday, Sept. 21, with the kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.