EDITORIAL: Panther football brought honor, work ethic and courage to the field and beyond

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Way back in August when the air was tortuous to breathe, the boys of summer were doing two-a-day practices. They squinted into the blistering sun and battled an invisible team of fierce opponents. Jerry Vance and his team of coaches encouraged, corrected and cajoled boys toward an intangible place called manhood and victory.

Football is a miniature, controlled war between two towns, full of rituals, symbolism and community pride as the ultimate prize. On some level every Liberty Hill football team that has ever taken the field has felt and understood this. However, since the arrival of Coach Vance, the difference has been the longest winning streak in our town’s history.

But in the coffee shops, parking lots and leaning up on pickup trucks, the second guessers and Monday morning sports specialists had already begun a dialogue of doubt. This team had young leaders, they weren’t really physically big enough and lots of other reasons why they would not make it past district this year. These Naybobs of Negativity shared all the perceived bare spots in the Panther fur.

We’re glad the Panthers weren’t listening.

The funny thing is that every team has a weakness somewhere and almost any decent team can beat any good team on any Friday night. The Panthers just kept on showing up for work and doing their jobs. They behaved just like winners always behave. Whatever they may have lacked in football prowess, they found in heart.

They must have asked themselves over and over, “Am I running as hard and fast as I can?”

They found non-existent holes to run through, they tackled players bigger and faster and meaner. They even went to the air when the other team least expected it. And the famously solid working-man offense occasionally pulled a trick play just to let the fans know that nothing is ever really impossible, and football is still a lot of fun.

At every game this season there came a moment of truth. A stand-alone moment where both offense and defense had to answer the age-old questions of whether or not they came to play.

They answered.

Every time a play came in, every time a number was called, they answered. The team did not forget who they were or where they came from. All they had to do was glance up in the stands at the sea of purple or hear the band banging out Seven Nation Army to know the people who mattered would always be there — win, lose or draw.

A community’s reputation is constantly evolving, changing for the better or worse. The 2014 Liberty Hill football team should be commended for standing tall, running hard and proudly representing their home along the Shin Oak Ridge.

– Charley Wilkison

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