Panthers play ‘lights out’ defense

By Joseph Garcia

The old addage is offense gets the glory, but defense wins championships and Liberty Hill Head Coach Jerry Vance sure hopes that is the case.

Opposing teams have gone pass happy against the Panthers (4-1) and they’ve had to given how many points they are usually down. The defense averages 248.8 passing yards against them to just 103.2 rushing.

The potent Panther offense is averaging 52.2 points per game, but the defense is allowing less than half that at 24 ppg. Through five games this season, Liberty Hill has given up a total of 120 points.

With all that said, the bottom line for Coach Vance is having more points than the other team.

“I think our defense has played lights out,” said Vance. “People get hung up on statistics and how many yards you got on offense and how many you gave up on defense. But the biggest statistic anybody needs to worry about is points and we’ve given up fewer points than we’ve scored. That’s what you’re after. When it’s all said and done next year nobody is going to look at how many yards you gave up passing. What they are going to look at is wins and losses.”

Defense certainly played a huge part in last Friday’s 46-24 win over Wimberley with Liberty Hill making multiple goal line stands, including one that Kyle Marshall highlifted by snagging the ball out of the Texan quarterback’s grip before he crossed the plane.

Marshall now leads the team with four fumbles caused.

That play resulted in a 13-point swing in favor of the Panthers. Liberty Hill also collected three interceptions with one going for a TD run in by junior River Marks that gave the Panthers a 32-17 lead.

“I think they’ve played great,” Vance reitereted. “They had two or three goal line stands this past week that were just phenominal. You hold Wimberley out from the 1-yard line for four downs and that’s something to beat your chest about because they are a well-coached team. They play the game right.”

Opposing offenses have had to pass against Liberty Hill since they are often playing from behind. But they are also getting more opportunities due to the no-huddle offense of the Panthers.

Through 10 games last season the defense averaged fewer points per game at 15.6 but so did the offense at 27.7. The math works out to where the 2012 Panthers average 28.2 more points offensivley than the defense allows to the 2011 team’s 12.1 differential.

Any Liberty Hill fan will tell you that a four touchdown cushion feels substantially better than just a 12 point lead. More plays equal more points on both sides of the ball.

In this age of pass-heavy offenses Coach Vance has come to expect teams to pass against his team, but he is more than comfortable with the players roaming the secondary, as he should be.

In just five games played, Liberty Hill secondary’s interception total is up to nine with three going for scores. Senior Jadon Durity-Boatright has five already this year and he should get more if teams continue to try and test him.

“Most everybody that we’ve played have been passing teams,” Vance said. “Rockdale had been 50-50 and I think against us they were like 80-20 passing. We are excited about our secondary and we think our scheme is pretty sound. It’s won several ball games and the coaches believe in it, the kids believe in it and we just go out and have fun now.”

Jordan Skinner and Chris Robinson have three sacks each. Zack Perez had two in the game against Wimberley. Jacob Dudgeon leads the team in total tackles with 34, while Marshall is second with 33. Dudgeon also leads in assists (21), tackles for a loss (14) and tackles per game (6.8).

The Purple Thunder defense continues to improve each game, but no matter how well they play, coaches will always find something on which to work.

“We obviously need to quit making mistakes like we made Friday night, giving up that deep ball,” Vance said. “I think we need to get a little more tightened down on third-and-long and fourth-and-long. It seems like in that situation we play hard and they let up a little bit. That’s a mental part. We are not near where we want to be.”

When the game comes that Liberty Hill’s defense is where Coach Vance wants it to be, offenses beware of a swarming unit with playmakers at every position, including ballhawks like Durity-Boatright in the seconday who can change a game.