By Paul Livengood
The Panther boys’ soccer team faced off against the Jarrell Cougars on Tuesday, and it did not take the Panthers long to find the back of the net.
Liberty Hill kicked off to begin the match, and 15 seconds in, the Panthers found themselves up 1-0. Colton Walter, sophomore midfielder, sniped a shot from distance and set the tone early for Liberty Hill. Walter finished the match with a hat trick.
Bryce Stratton, junior midfielder, also scored a hat trick for the Panthers. Stratton also recorded an assist. With the hat trick, Stratton has now scored seven goals in four games.
Izaac Zausch, junior midfielder, Michael Shipley, junior midfielder, and Jordan Schwingendorf junior forward, each had an assist, as well.
Liberty Hill led 3-0 at half and never let up. The 6-0 win was the Panthers’ fourth shutout win of the season, and fourth straight win in a row.
A young Leander Glenn team, filled with only freshmen and sophomores on the roster, came out of the gate firing. The first-year team dished out on-ball pressure against Liberty Hill that proved to be quite effective.
“We showed some fight after getting a quick goal scored on us,” Bauer said. “I do not think we came out ready to play with our full intensity and they took advantage of that, but we responded well and picked up the pace.”
Jesus Ortega played a through ball up the middle and delivered a strike from deep, scoring the first goal of the game to put Glenn up 1-0.
Liberty Hill almost went down 2-0 when Eduardo Silva had a break away behind the back line, but junior goalkeeper Parker Sargent made a crucial one-on-one save.
Pedro Silva, Panthers’ senior forward, knotted up the contest nearly halfway into the first half after using his body to box out his defender, as he was played a ball through the defense and finished a one-on-one goal.
Leander Glenn fired back with a fast break goal of their own as Isaiahz Soria, sophomore striker, gave the Grizzlies the lead once again. Soria found his way behind the backline on a long through pass, Sargent came out of the 18-yard box to challenge Soria, and the Grizzlies sophomore shot the ball under Parker from distance on an open goal.
The Panthers trailed 1-2 at halftime, but it didn’t take them long to tie the game once again. As if Bauer lit a fire under his team at halftime, Liberty Hill scored in the first 30 seconds of the second half at the foot of Stratton. Walter fired a shot from 30 yards away , which the Grizzlies’ goalkeeper deflected right to the foot of Stratton, who put the shot away inside the six-yard box.
Tied at 2-2, the game took a bit of a turn. After a goal kick, Slade Cummins attempted to head the ball in the air, while the Grizzlies’ player bent over and gave Cummins what looked like a piggyback ride. Tempers flared, an argument between the two teams ensued, and multiple yellow cards were given to each team.
Minutes later, Soria was given a red card for delaying the game and keeping play from restarting. Leander Glenn was forced to play the remaining 28 minutes of the match one man down.
Possession shifted in Liberty Hill’s favor for most those 28 minutes. Dawson Carroll, senior midfielder, scored what ended up being the game-winning goal with six minutes left in regulation, as the Panthers held their 3-2 lead to secure the win.
“My thoughts when Dawson scored was ‘finally,’” Bauer said. “We were pushing them to their limits so many times in the second half, and they kept coming up with an answer. Soccer is a weird game, and you can control almost every aspect of the game and still not win.”
With the two wins, Liberty Hill improves to 7-7 overall and 3-1 in district.
“The win just means that we still hold the district title in our hands,” Bauer said. “We must continue to come out and play the 80 minutes with full intensity, and our fate is in our hands.”
Next up, the Panthers will take the field against the Burnet Bulldogs for the second time in 11 days. Liberty Hill won the first-ever matchup between the two programs earlier in the season by a final score of 8-0. The Panthers and Bulldogs kick off in Panther Stadium on Friday, Feb. 10, at 7:30 p.m.