Panthers seize district opener on the road

By Joseph Garcia

LLANO – For the second year in a row Liberty Hill traveled to Llano to take on the Yellowjackets at home, but the Panthers knew this was not going to be the team they shut out last season 38-0. Instead the new-look Llano team put together a good game plan crafted by new head coach Craig Slaughter and staff.

From the opening kickoff there was drama, as senior Jadon Durity-Boatrigt fielded the football at the 15 yard line, waited patiently for his blocks to form and once he saw a crease, he hit high gear, made a couple of Yellowjackets miss at their 40, cut left, and outran the rest of the coverage down the Liberty Hill sideline.

The first quarter was the District 8-3A-opening fight it was supposed to be, but Liberty Hill eventually took a stronghold as Durity-Boatright would score three different ways as he and the Panthers left Llano with a 55-28 victory.

Liberty Hill improved to 1-0 in the district and 6-1 overall, while Llano dropped to 0-1 and 2-5.

In a nearly identical play to his 91-yard kickoff return earlier this year, Durity-Boatright made it 6-0, then 7-0 after he hit the extra point to begin the scoring. The 85-yard TD took just 15 seconds.

Unfortunately, a Llano player was injured on the play and required a cart to move him off the field. But after a 15-minute delay and fueled by the emotion of playing for their teammate, the Yellowjackets marched down the field on their opening possession for an 11-play drive capped off with a seven-yard TD run by quarterback Layton Rabb to tie the game 7-7 with 7:05 left in the first.

When the Panthers finally got the ball on offense, the Slot-T went to work with carries by junior Cory Ferrell and senior Jesse Perez. Ferrell ended the drive on the fourth play when he scored on a 33-yard touchdown run up the middle. With the PAT, Liberty Hill took a 14-7 lead with 2:51 to play in the first quarter.

The Purple Thunder defense began to show when on fourth-and-9 Llano’s Rabb was sacked on junior Chris Robinson, giving the Panthers the ball at their own 43.

Liberty Hill’s offense responded and made a huge play on fourth-and-7 when quarterback Brandon Wells rolled right and found Perez near the sideline for a nine-yard pickup and a first down. The very next play Wells kept the ball and found a hole up the middle for a five-yard TD run.

With the score 21-7 in Liberty Hill’s favor with 8:21 left, the Yellowjackets came right back and scored on a 34-yard screen pass to Rhett Brooks, closing to within seven at 21-14 with 6:13 in the half.

The Panthers added two more TDs before the half, making it 35-14 heading into the locker room.

The third quarter was nearly played without a score, but Liberty Hill scored with 21 seconds in the period when Perez took a toss right play for a 32-yard touchdown run adding to the Panthers’ lead 42-14

Llano scored twice more, including on the last play of the game, but it was too little too late for the home team as the Panthers won the district opener by 27 points (55-28).

For more on this story see the Oct. 18 edition of The Liberty Hill Independent.