By Joseph Garcia
The Brownwood Lions and their fans traveled nearly two hours to Panther Stadium Oct. 19 and witnessed a hard-fought, grind-out game, much to their pleasure.
The Lions received the opening kickoff and started their drive form their own 46-yard line. Then just three plays later, Brownwood quarterback Chris Keesee found an open Cooper Howey in the end zone for a 19-yard TC catch to put the Lions on top early 7-0 with 8:15 in the first.
Liberty Hill found itself in a 14-0 hole a 24-yard touchdown pass to Howey with 4:32 to go in the first period, but eventually battled back in the second half to take a 18-17 lead.
The Panthers, however, could not sustain their lead and dropped their second District 8-3A game 32-18 to move to 5-2 overall and 1-1 in the district.
“They played well and did a good job,” said Liberty Hill Head Coach Jerry Vance. “My hat is off to them. They had a good scheme and we didn’t play very well. We didn’t do the things that we were coached to do.”
The Panthers put together a nine-yard drive which ended on a 21-yard TD run by Jesse Perez on a fourth-and-11 down and distance. Perez took the toss, made a few defenders miss and stayed in bounds for the score. The point after attempt failed, making the score 14-6 with 2:16 showing on the clock.
Brownwood (2-0, 4-3) sustained a 12-play drive to score the first points in the second quarter when Matt McCrane nailed a 46-yard field goal. The Lions increased their lead to 17-6 with 4:56 left in the first half.
It did not take the Panthers long to respond, however, when senior Jadon Durity-Boatright fielded the ensuing kickoff at the goal line, brushed through the first wave of blockers and tightroped the home sideline for his second kickoff return in as many games. The quick score closed the gap to 17-12, which was the score at the half.
The special teams score was Durity-Boatright’s fourth kickoff return for a touchdown on the season. He has one punt return for a score this year as well.
Once the Panthers final took a 18-17 lead with 7:44 in the third, the tables turned and the Lions took a one-point lead when on a Liberty Hill punt attempt the ball sailed over Perez’s head and out of the end zone for a safety. The points gave Brownwood a 19-18 lead.
The safety was not something Coach Vance anticipated.
“The safety took a lot of air out of us,” Vance said. “There were a lot of things that I expected to happen, but a safety was not one of them. It just wasn’t meant to be tonight. We’ve got to look back and see what they problems were.”
The Lions put the game out of reach after scoring on an 11-yard TD catch with under six minutes left and on a 7-yard TD run with 1:58 to play, putting the game away for a 32-18 victory on the road.
Defensively, the Panthers were sound and pressured the Brownwood quarterback all night to tab nine total sacks. Jacob Dudgeon recorded three of his own.
Averaging over 390 rushing yards per game, the Panthers were held to just 149 on Friday night. And while the only silver lining may be the fact the Panthers did not turn the ball over, Coach Vance does not subscribe to losses making his team better. But either way, Liberty Hill will not dwell on the loss and has already moved on.
“That just goes against my grain,” he said. “I don’t know how losing gets you ready to play the next game. We played poorly and they played very well. The sun came up Saturday morning and momma still loved them…so we move on.”
Liberty Hill will try to right the ship when the team travels to Burnet for its next District 8-3A battle on Friday, Oct. 26 for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.