Panthers’ tough defense, and Barrios earn Liberty Hill first win

By TAYLOR GRAFFT

HONDO — The Liberty Hill Panthers picked up their first win of the season in a tough road contest against the Hondo Owls on Friday night. The Panthers’ defense sealed the victory with just under five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter when they made a stop on fourth and one to turn the ball over on downs.

The Panthers went on the win 20-6, allowing their opponent only one offensive touchdown for the second straight week.

Hondo opened the scoring in the first quarter with a 45-yard touchdown drive capped off by AJ Garcia’s 1-yard touchdown run. A missed extra point made it 6-0 Hondo with 3:38 remaining in the first quarter. The Owls had a short field to work with after taking over possession in Liberty Hill territory following an interception by Garcia.

Liberty Hill answered right back two possessions later when senior running back Nick Barrios took the ball 57 yards into the end zone on the first play of the second quarter. The extra point made it 7-6 Panthers with 11:50 remaining in the half.

The Panthers would score again right before halftime on a 48-yard drive that was finished off by Barrios with :54 seconds remaining in the first half. Barrios punched it in from one yard out on 2nd and goal to make it 14-6 Panthers following the extra point. Junior defensive back Nick Hernandez intercepted Garcia’s pass as time expired in the first half to go into the locker room with a lead.

Barrios finished with 132 yards rushing in the first half.

The Panthers struck first in the second half when junior running back Hunter Lindsay took a sweep around the edge and sprinted 35 yards for a Liberty Hill touchdown. The ensuing extra point was blocked to make it 20-6 Panthers with 3:48 remaining in the third quarter.

Both defenses played tough in the fourth quarter and neither team would score the remainder of game. The Panthers would stop a last effort drive with just under five minutes remaining to seal road victory.

Barrios finished the game with 183 yards on 26 carries. Liberty Hill out-rushed the Owls 321 to 38.

Hondo’s star quarterback AJ Garcia left the game in the third quarter and did not return following a tackle out of bounds near the Owls’ bench.

Head Coach Jerry Vance was happy to pick up the first win of the season and proud of the way his team fought on the road in a tough environment.

“It doesn’t matter where it is,” Coach Vance said. “That’s what this game is about, to win ball games. And whether you lose by one or 100, a win is a win. I hate to lose and I hate to get beat. It just eats on me for a week until we get to play again and have a chance to redeem ourselves.”

Look for complete game coverage in the Sept. 12 edition of The Independent.