JV Panthers shut out the Bears

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By KEITH SPARKS

The Liberty Hill junior varsity football team helped complete a clean sweep of La Vernia last week, as did the freshmen. All three teams, from the freshman team through varsity, shut out the La Vernia Bears in their respective contests.

The first drive of the game featured the Panthers on defense, during which Cory Jellison was able to sack La Vernia’s quarterback for a huge loss on first down. The defense was able to stuff the run at the line of scrimmage on the next two plays, forcing the Bears to go for it on fourth down. Ben White made a great play on fourth down to bat down a pass that would have given the Bears a first down, leading to a turnover on downs for La Vernia.

The Panthers made this one look as if it would be a blowout from the beginning. On Liberty Hill’s very first offensive play, running back Grant Ornelaz broke off for what looked like a 74-yard touchdown. However, the huge play was called back due to a block in the back.

The next three plays were all runs by Liberty Hill, and each was stuffed at the line of scrimmage, forcing the Panthers to punt. Kelly Robinson, on special teams for the Panthers, absolutely crushed the La Vernia punt returner after he looked unsure whether or not he wanted to pick the ball up, letting it bounce around for a few seconds before making the unwise decision to grab it.

Liberty Hill running back Jerome Roblee was able to break off for a 37-yard run, after which he was tackled at the goal line. He was given the opportunity to finish off what he started on the next play, punching in the game’s first touchdown on a one-yard run up the middle.

La Vernia took one last shot at the end zone on an attempt to tie it before halftime, but the ball was picked off by Liberty Hill’s Deaun Gidrey, ending the half with the Panthers leading 7-0.

Ornelaz seemingly made something happen just about every time he touched the ball, breaking tackles and turning plays that looked like they may fizzle out into positive yardage for the Panthers. To start the second half, Ornelaz broke about six tackles on another big run that was called back because of a penalty. On the same drive, Roblee broke off for yet another huge run for the Panthers, this one resulting in a 50-yard touchdown. The third quarter ended with the Panthers up 14-0.

Roblee again made the defense look silly in the fourth quarter, getting free for multiple 15-to-20-yard runs, including one that featured a nasty stiff arm on his way to a 20-yard gain. When it looked like the Panthers might score again, Ornelaz fumbled a tough pitch at La Vernia’s 7-yard line, which the Bears recovered, giving them a chance to make this a close football game. However, La Vernia fumbled the very next play, and Guidrey was able able to recover at the 10-yard line. He had one interception and a fumble recovery on the night.

Panthers’ quarterback Jareck Naylor dropped back to pass on first down after the fumble recovery, but was forced to scramble after not finding an open receiver. Naylor found the end zone on a 10-yard run for the Panthers’ third touchdown of the game. They led 21-0 with 5:29 to play thanks in part to kicker Mason Shipley, who was a perfect three for three on extra points during the game.

La Vernia finally put a decent drive together on their last possession of the game, but a bad snap forced their quarterback to dive on the ball after a 15-yard loss, effectively ending the game. Liberty Hill had possession, up 21-0 with 6.8 seconds left. Naylor kneeled the ball, giving them their first shut out of the season.

Liberty Hill’s junior varsity team is now 2-0, and will look to remain undefeated against the Brownwood Lions at Panther Stadium on Thursday at 7 p.m.

The Panthers’ freshman football team is also 2-0, after beating La Grange by a score of 47-27 in their first game and shutting out La Vernia 26-0 in their second. Liberty Hill featured only one freshman team in both games, but will have both a Purple and a White team for the next couple weeks, including this week’s games against Brownwood. The White team will play at 4 p.m. at Panther Stadium on Thursday, and the Purple team will follow at 5 p.m.

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