By TAYLOR GRAFFT
The Liberty Hill Panthers football team has enjoyed a tremendous amount of success over the years under Head Coach Jerry Vance.
The reason for that success comes from Coach Vance’s ability to find and surround himself with some of the best coaching talent in Central Texas.
The Liberty Hill assistant coaches pride themselves not only on teaching high school kids the fundamentals of how to play the sport of football, but how to compete in life outside of extracurricular sports.
Two assistant coaches who have been part of that teaching process and success are Anthony Escobar and Heath Hohmann.
Escobar arrived at Liberty Hill 10 years ago from Austin and says he was interested in working with Coach Vance because of his old school style of play and his success on the field.
Hohmann, originally from Llano, learned the Slot-T offense in South Texas, but had a desire to coach in Central Texas. Hohmann arrived at Liberty Hill after one of Coach Vance’s assistant coaches retired. Vance was looking to bring someone in who already knew the Slot-T offense and had ties to the Liberty Hill coaching staff. Hohmann was an easy choice.
The Panthers enter district play against Llano at Panther Stadium this week and the assistant coaches have used the bye week to prepare the team.
“We’ve been teaching the players basics, basics, basics,” said Coach Hohmann. “In order to get where we need to be going into this district game, we have to be focused and really good at the fundamentals.”
Both coaches believe in this team and the Panthers’ abilities to win in district play. They said if the team limits the mental mistakes and takes care of the ball, it will have a chance to be really good.
There’s a different feeling around the locker room with this year’s team. The coaches and players both feel confident that this could be the Panthers’ year to not only win district, but have success in the playoffs.
“This year’s team is really focused and there’s a great leadership presence in the locker room,” said Coach Escobar. “Not one of these kids are going to take shortcuts. They’re going to work their butts off and compete. They might not be the most talented group we’ve had in the past, but they work hard.”
“They’re a very coachable group of kids,” Hohmann added. “They take coaching very well. In years past we’ve had maybe three or four guys on a team of 40 that are coachable players. This year we have a whole group of kids that are coachable and that’s the big difference. This group asks a lot of questions and wants to learn and do the right thing. There’s just much more team chemistry than I’ve seen since I have been here.”
With any coaching staff the key to being successful and winning games comes from the ability to prepare. Assistant coaches spend countless hours preparing by watching game film every day. They look for something that will give them an advantage on the field or allow them to pick up on their opponent’s tendencies.
Both Hohmann and Escobar, as well as the rest of Coach Vance’s staff spend the majority of their time watching game film.
“The hardest part is probably the time away from family,” Escobar said. “Trying to find that balance between work and still having time to see your wife and kids. You get used to it after a while, but it is still the toughest part. But I love my job more than anything. The fact I get paid to coach football is the greatest thing in the world.”
Preparing kids all week in practice for Friday nights is not the only thing these assistant coaches want their players to take away from their time at Liberty Hill. The coaches hope that the relationships they build with their players will help them later on in life. They said they have former players come back and visit them and keep in touch. They also have former players who come back and coach on staff.
“I think any extracurricular sport helps you in life,” Hohmann said. “Just the aspect of competing. Whether they’re playing sports, preparing for college, working at a job or a business — whatever they’re involved with at the school will help prepare them for things in the real world.”
Hohmann added that playing any sport will help kids learn to deal with adversity.
“Whether it’s golf, tennis, baseball, football, whatever, you will learn how to handle adversity,” he said. “It’s our job as coaches to get out of you things that you didn’t think you could do or get out of you things you didn’t think you could give. Once you get knocked down and get back up, whether from injury or defeat, those things will help prepare you for life.”
The communication of the coaches on the sidelines is also a key in why the coaching staff is able to have so much success and translate it to teaching and communicating with the players.
Both coaches said that whether they’re up in the coach’s box or on the sideline they’re able to get the job done and figure out what is going on. They enjoy the ability to communicate with the players and figure out what is working and what is not working. Each coach has his own role and is able to communicate and execute that role at any moment in the game.
The Panthers are currently holding a 4-1 overall record and hope to continue their winning streak into district play on Friday night against Llano.
With the attitude and chemistry of the players, as well as the communication and dedication of the coaching staff, this team looks to be making huge strides and getting better with each game played.