Crockett not the king of the football frontier

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By Scott Akanewich

Crockett High School in South Austin is named after the legendary frontiersman from Tennessee who fought and died at the Alamo during the Texas Revolution in 1836.

This Friday when the Cougars visit Panther Stadium for the District 14 opener for both clubs, the visitors should probably suffer the same fate as the Texans did on that fateful, historic day nearly 200 years ago.

Without all the death and destruction, of course.

But, that doesn’t mean Liberty Hill head coach Jeff Walker is at all taking Crockett lightly.

“Well, they’ve only played one game and got beat pretty good,” he said of the Cougars’ 56-8 season-opening defeat to Johnson on Oct. 1. “But, we need to get a feel for their team and what we’re going to see, so we’re not guessing defensively.”

The Cougars managed only 26 rushing yards in the loss, but junior quarterback Michael Newton threw for 242 yards on 15-of-30 passing and a touchdown to go with three interceptions, so the Liberty Hill secondary, led by juniors Aaron Brewer and Kaden McMahan will have to remain alert.

Last week against Del Valle, McMahan intercepted a Cardinals pass and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown, while Brewer is tied with teammate Carter Hudson with a squad-best three passes defended this season.

Walker has made no bones about the fact he wasn’t happy with the fact his defense switched off in allowing last-minute touchdowns in each of the first two contests of the season and is looking for more ferocity from the unit – something which starts during the week, he said.

“We definitely need to pick up our level of intensity in practice,” said Walker.

Offensively, the Panthers have continued to roll up rushing yards at their usual prolific pace, averaging 418.5 yards on the ground through two games.

Last year’s leading ground-gainer, Trey Seward, leads the way thus far this season, with 44 carries for 311 yards and three touchdowns, while fellow seniors Blake Simpson (37 carries, 267 yards, three touchdowns) and Eric De La Cruz (30-228-3) have teamed up to form a potent trio out of the Panthers’ backfield, led by senior signal-caller Charlie Calabretta, who already had a pair of scoring passes – one in each game.

Before Monday’s practice, the Panthers emerged from the fieldhouse and trotted onto the field earlier than usual, a detail noticed by Walker as he looked on and in step with the sense of urgency he wants his players to feel, he said.

“We have a lot of room to improve,” said Walker. “But, the good thing is our kids see that and they show up every day ready to work and get better – that’s all we can do right now.”

Liberty Hill’s new district opponents went a combined 15-46 last season and don’t look to be a whole lot better this fall, but in typical fashion,Walker isn’t concerned with who the Panthers are playing.

“We don’t care if it’s Alabama coming out of the tunnel onto the field,” he said. “All we worry about is getting to where we want to be.”

Walker does rue the fact he only got two non-district games in this shortened season – missing out on contests against Georgetown and LBJ, who certainly would’ve provided tougher tests for his squad than either Killeen Ellison or Del Valle did, but at this point, it is what it is, he said.

“I think we’re a bit behind in the process from where we would normally be at this time of year,” said Walker. “We’re lacking focus at the moment, but that’s not something you can necessarily work on in the offseason. After all, it’s not like you carry a football around the house with Mom and Dad trying to knock it out of your hands, so not having a full offseason – which we really needed — has hurt us.”

The reason the Panthers needed a strong offseason regimen was a 7-6 campaign, which saw them struggle mightily before rebounding and advancing to the fourth round of the playoffs and is something Walker is determined not to see happen again any time soon, which would explain his criticism of his team despite a 2-0 record, as he sees signs of last season beginning to enter into the picture, he said.

“Right now, I think we’re real similar to last year,” said Walker. “Which is frustrating because we have a lot of seniors who aren’t stepping up the way we need them to.”

The way Walker sees it, his team can probably continue to get away with the same kind and amount of mistakes they’ve made in the first two games without necessarily being punished due to the level of competition the Panthers will be facing during district play – for the most part, anyway – something the veteran coach finds disturbing, but is also adamant in his vigilance to prevent, he said.

“I think there are a few teams in our district which we need to play better against than what we’ve shown in order to beat,” said Walker. “So, we need to correct some of the things we’re doing. We could probably be sloppy, but there’s always that chance a team could come out and beat you – we see upsets all the time.”

But, it probably just won’t be this week.

Maybe Sonny Crockett would have a better chance.

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