Costly mistakes cost Liberty Hill in 35-21 home defeat
By Scott Akanewich
On a cold, blustery night with temperatures dropping into the low 50s at Panther Stadium, the play of the home side did little to warm the hearts of the Purple-and-Gold faithful, as Liberty Hill dropped its district football opener against visiting Fredericksburg by a score of 35-21.
Senior running back Jarrett Beard had a game for the ages for the Battlin’ Billies, with a hand in all five Fredericksburg touchdowns, catching three scoring strikes from quarterback Tucker Elliott, as well as running one in and throwing one on an option play, racking up five catches for 177 yards to go with another 51 yards on 10 carries.
Liberty Hill head coach Jeff Walker regretted the fact it was Beard who beat his team.
“For the past three weeks, we were telling our players he was the one to stop,” said Walker. “Then, he goes out and beats us.”
Beard’s first score of the evening came on the Billies’ opening possession when Elliott led them on a 10-play, 75-yard drive capped off with a 25-yard pass to the shifty back, aided by three personal-foul penalties and a pass interference call on the Panthers for a 6-0 advantage after the extra point was blocked.
Fredericksburg then pulled one out of its bag of tricks, successfully recovering an onside kick, but the Panthers’ defense held and the offense took over at the 50.
Trey Seward broke a 10-yard run, then was pushed out-of-bounds by a defender into his own bench, which added another 15 yards to the play for a personal foul. Blake Simpson then followed with a run of 13 yards, before Carter Hudson rumbled into the end zone from 12 yards out to reduce the deficit to 7-6 at the end of the first quarter.
However, the Billies added a pair of touchdowns in the second stanza without reply by the home side as Beard hauled in passes of 36 and 25 yards from Elliott, both ending 75-yard drives and it was 21-7 at halftime.
Liberty Hill only managed to run 14 plays for 53 yards in the opening half, something which Walker attributed to the Frdericksburg game plan.
“Their coaches did a good job of slowing the game down,” he said. “But, we also shot ourselves in the foot with turnovers and penalties.”
After the Billies scored on a fake field-goal attempt midway through the third quarter for a 27-7 lead, it was Seward who provided a glimmer of hope with a 49-yard touchdown run to close the gap to 27-14, but that was as close as the Panthers would get the rest of the way.
Beard threw a touchdown pass to younger brother Judson Beard to make it 35-14, before Simpson pulled one back for the Panthers with a 58-yard scoring run.
Seward ended the game with eight carries for 107 yards, while Simpson ran 11 times for 95 yards.
Walker was befuddled in the aftermath of the performance his squad put on.
“I’m at a loss for words as to what’s going on,” he said. “I’ve never been where we are right now in my entire career.”
Even more frustrating for Walker was the inability of he and his coaches to properly motivate the players, he said.
“I’ve never had a group like this which I couldn’t fire up,” said Walker. “We need to get them playing like we know they’re capable, but I don’t think they believe it and as long as that’s the case, I’m not sure we can do it.”
However, Walker continued to place the blame squarely on himself for his squad’s shortcomings.
“I feel like I’m not helping them enough,” he said. “Our coaches lose sleep over this, trying different things.”
Walker said last season’s two-week bye in the schedule seemed to do the trick for his club, but not the case this year.
“Last year, we really needed those two weeks off and we came back fired up and ready to play,” he said. “This year with all the injuries we’ve had, we’ve had to move a lot of people around and I don’t think guys are comfortable yet.”
Included on the list of current casualties are a pair of seniors in safety Brady Brewer and Austin Knox, who were injured in the Panthers’ previous game against Pflugerville on Sept. 19, which not only makes the current run of form more difficult between the lines, but also psychologically, said Walker.
“It’s tough when you look over and see two of our better players on the sideline,” he said.
But, the Panthers’ boss wasn’t about to blame anyone or anything for the current malaise than himself.
“We have some good football players,” he said. “I’m just not doing a very good job right now. I’m very sorry for the community because we’re not playing like we’re capable of.”
Liberty Hill (2-3, 0-1) will next face a road game against Lampasas on Oct. 18.