Football Boosters award scholarships

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By Scott Akanewich

Over the course of four years, Liberty Hill High School football players Drake Oberpriller, Hadley Weems, Brady Brewer, Jacob Cearley and Ryley Rosenbusch left it all out on the field for the Panthers.

As a result, the Liberty Hill Football Boosters wanted to give something back to the quintet now that their time on the Purple-and-Gold gridiron is done.

So, each of the graduating seniors was awarded a $1,500 scholarship to take with them when they begin attending their respective colleges in the fall.

According to Liberty Hill Football Boosters President Shawn Lapuszynski, it was simply the right thing to do at the right time and a proper sendoff for players who put in the requisite time and effort in contributing to the Panthers’ program.

“Liberty Hill football players are incredibly hard working and dedicated,” said Lapuszynski. “It’s been said by other programs we have the toughest offseason in the state. The black-sleeve letter jackets only football awards are special and what it takes to wear them requires a special kind of toughness. We want to recognize this by helping these young people a little in continuing their education.”

Players were rated based on a points system, which are awarded for participation in all football activities, including the offseason and were required to write an essay.

Lapuszynski said the quality of all the applicants caused the club to change its plans when it came time to award the scholarships, as there were to be only three players honored originally.

“We saw the five applicants and realized they all represent exactly what Liberty Hill football is all about,” he said. “We also wanted to do something for the 2020 Seniors, so the LHFB Executive Board unanimously agreed to up the budget and award all five applicants $1,500 each.”  

Brewer is the only one of the group who will be continuing his playing career – at Sam Houston State – where he will major in business, and said it’s humbling to receive such a parting gift as he matriculates to the next level of education and athletics.

“It’s a true honor to receive this scholarship – this whole system in Liberty Hill means so much to me and it goes to show how you get from something as much as you are willing to give,” said Brewer, whose senior season was cut short by a knee injury that he has almost finished rehabilitating. “I learned many things, but possibly the most important thing I learned is hard work prevails. I believe if you apply this in any aspect of your life, it’s hard to go wrong.”

Oberpriller will be heading west to attend San Diego State University, where he will study international business and said life outside the lines will be surreal.

“Without football, life will be strange,” he said. “No more suiting up, or long practices, or thrilling Friday night games – I’ll definitely have to get use to not having it, but I’ll just have to pick up another hobby.”

Being recognized by the boosters was validating and has provided additional motivation for keeping a vital characteristic front and center, said Oberpriller.

“The feeling you get when you receive a scholarship is an incredible feeling because it shows people believe in your future,” he said. “I learned many things while playing football, but the most important thing I learned and will always have is determination.”

Rosenbusch, who will attend Texas A&M and study Wildlife and Fisheries in order to pursue a career as a game warden, also said it’s gratifying for his hard work not only to be recognized, but rewarded.

“After giving everything to the football program the past six years, it instills a sense of pride in me that my hard work and commitment was noticed,” he said. “One of the most important things I’ve learned from this program is how to accept criticism as well as learn from your failures.”

However, perhaps the biggest challenge moving forward will be filling the enormous void of no longer having football constantly on his radar, he said.

“It’s going to be a real culture shock,” said Rosenbusch. “For the past six years, I’ve had something that deals with football every day. Whether that be practice, lifting, or just playing around with friends.”

Weems will begin his pursuit of a business degree at Blinn College in Brenham before transferring to Texas A&M and will miss what he’s leaving behind, but knows it readied him for what lies ahead.

“I’ll miss my teammates, coaches and all the camaraderie,” he said. “Being a part of a team gave me lifetime friendships, memories that will last a lifetime and taught me lessons that prepared me for the future.”

Weems echoed his teammates’ sentiments as far as tireless work ethic being the most crucial element of success.

“Being a part of the Liberty Hill football program has taught me that hard work and dedication matter – relationships and trusting others matters and when I get discouraged or feel defeated, keep trying,” he said. “Good things happen to those who work smart and hard.”

Cearley, who is an aspiring business owner, will attend Texas Tech and is eager to get his post-prep life underway, he said.

“I’ll miss playing high school football with all my friends, but I’m excited to go to Tech and see what the future holds,” said Cearley. “Hard work and dedication will get you far in life. Focusing on your goals and making them happen is a huge part of success.”

Lapuszynski cited club Vice President Gary Johnson, Secretary Velvet Webb and Treasurer Sean Flinn as critical cogs in enabling the organization to do what it does in bettering the Panthers football program.

“We also have several outstanding committee heads and volunteers – these people really make it happen for our program,” he said. “Because of the outstanding work of our incredible volunteers and the generosity of our business sponsors and community, we were able to provide an upcoming uniform addition, a quality banquet, weekly audio broadcast of varsity games, awarding scholarships and numerous other enhancements.”

The club was founded prior to the 2019 season after each sport was designated its own, and Lapuszynski said moving forward will certainly be challenging – especially with the global pandemic and all the repercussions it will produce. However, the goals of the boosters remain the same and they are steadfast in their resolve to continue to do whatever they can to improve Panthers football.

“The next priority is to see how we come out of the huge COVID shutdown. We’ll be evaluating the availability of contributions and revenue  from our usual sources such as concessions, events and business and general membership donations, which is uncertain at the moment,” he said. “We had an incredibly strong first year and we were poised for an even better second year. Regardless of coming out of a shutdown, our goals of enhancing the football program through funding its leadership priorities and upgrading the players’ experience remain intact. We have a community that is second to none and together, we will get there.” 

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