Connally gets caught in Liberty Hill’s speed trap

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By BOB VARMETTE

WACO – They say speed kills.

And sometimes, those old sayings have a lot of truth to them. But on Friday, Waco Connally wasn’t fast enough to run past Liberty Hill.

Connally was loaded with speed on both sides of the ball, and Panthers  Coach Jerry Vance said he was particularly concerned with the Cadets high-octane spread offense.

The Cadets got some yards, and some points, but looked thoroughly frustrated on offense by the Panthers in the 45-25 non-district victory by the visitors at Max Peoples Stadium.

“I thought we had a great effort,” Panthers junior linebacker Colton Cunningham said. “We ran to the ball. We were pretty concerned about their speed. … I think it’s one of the best efforts we had.”

The stats tend to be in agreement with Cunningham’s assessment.

The Panthers (3-1) surrendered 371 yards to the Cadets (2-2). But 131 of those yards came on two long scoring plays that came well after the game had been decided. Thanks to the Panthers’ punitive ground game, which generated 510 yards rushing on 60 attempts, the final outcome was seemingly never in doubt.

The Panthers did a particularly good job on defense when the game was still in question early on. The Cadets trimmed the Panthers’ lead to 7-6 late in the first quarter, but yards and points were hard to come by for the rest of the first half against Liberty Hill.

After Liberty Hill went up 14-6 on a touchdown run by Jon Shannon, the defense forced a three-and-out by Connally. Two plays later, it was 21-6 Panthers on Shannon’s second touchdown of the night, and then on the ensuing possession, the defense made another stop.

One drive later, Liberty Hill scored again. Then the defense had another key stop, setting Liberty Hill up with a 31-6 lead at halftime.

All that speed on offense, yet Liberty Hill was ready for it.

“We definitely practiced containing their speed to the outside,” said Liberty Hill senior defensive end Jacob Covington. “Defensively, we expected passes, I felt like we were prepared.”

Liberty Hill’s defense clamped down on Connally quarterback Kristian Brown in the second half. Brown had 90 yards on 11 carries in the first two quarters, but didn’t even run the ball in the second half when the Cadets had to try throwing the ball down by 25 points.

The offensive possession by the Panthers helped the defensive effort, and Vance said he believes a good offense is a good defense.

Brown eventually tossed a pair of touchdown passes, including a 62-yard connection with senior wideout Israel Williams, but most of Connally’s damage came against the second-team defense.

“That last touchdown came we had one of our No. 2s in there,” Vance said. “He just misplayed the jump and that’s an experience thing. The touchdown before that we had a No. 2 in there. But I thought they overall did a good job.”

Going forward, Liberty Hill wants to build on its momentum from the victory in Waco.

“It’s a big step forward,” Cunningham said. “We’ve got Abilene Wylie next. They’re big, they’re fast. We’ve just got to do it.”

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