LH, Bandera have real reasons to play

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Senior offensive lineman Matt McLeod (#60) watches senior halfback Logan Barnes (#8) score Liberty Hill’s opening touchdown in a 45-35 victory over the Fredericksburg Billies last Friday. (Kathy Canady Photo)

Senior offensive lineman Matt McLeod (#60) watches senior halfback Logan Barnes (#8) score Liberty Hill’s opening touchdown in a 45-35 victory over the Fredericksburg Billies last Friday. (Kathy Canady Photo)

By BOB VARMETTE

The Bandera Bulldogs need some help to make the playoffs.

But first they need to beat the Liberty Hill Panthers in the teams’ District 14-4A Division I finale at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Bandera High School Stadium.

If they can accomplish that, and the Taylor Ducks can beat the Fredericksburg Billies, the Bulldogs will keep playing at least one more week.

“We have a great senior class,” said second-year Bandera Coach David Sine. “They’re ready for this game. It’s going to be their last game at home. They want to do something special.”

It’s been five years since the Bulldogs (4-4, 1-3 District 14-4A Div. I) have been in the playoffs. It’s been five years since they have entered the final game of the district schedule with a chance at the playoffs.

Making the postseason would be special indeed for a team that has gone 3-7, 2-8, 1-9 and 0-10 the last four seasons.

The Panthers (7-2, 4-0), on the other hand, are already in the playoffs. They are already District 14-4A Division I champions.

But Friday night is no less special and no less important. Heading into the postseason with a district win, and a victory would secure for the Panthers their second straight undefeated district season.

“It’s probably one of the biggest games because – yeah, undefeated – but what really matters is momentum going into the playoffs,” Liberty Hill senior quarterback Nick Hernandez said. “A big win over these guys gives us the push, the momentum to take into the first round of playoffs.”

The Panthers are preparing for the Bulldogs as they would for any other opponent, according to senior linebacker Christian Anderson. This is not the time to rest on laurels or to rest starters just so they can be fresh for the bi-district round.

That’s still too far into the future. Especially when you’re playing a Bulldog squad that could also be 4-0 in district, Sine said, noting all three of Bandera’s league losses have come by nine points or less.

“We’re going to come in hot – we’re not going to take a week off,” Anderson said. “It’s the week before the playoffs start so we’re going to go in with a bang.”

Sine said the Bulldogs expect nothing less from a team coached by Jerry Vance. But while he and his team are honored to be on the sideline across from Vance and the Panthers, they are not awed.

They weren’t awed by Tennessee commit Quentin Dormady either. Bandera dropped a 24-15 decision to Boerne last week, but led 15-0 before the quarterback rallied the Greyhounds.

Sine said it was another district game that got away. He said it was probably their best game of the season.

There’s no point looking back, he said. Regardless, the Bulldogs are going to have their hands full with the Panthers Friday night.

“There is no magical defense to stop that Slot-T,” Sine said. “It’s a great offense. They’ve got an answer for everything that you do defensively. Their skill guys are really good – (Hunter) Lindsay and (Jon) Shannon, in particular, are really good players. But their quarterback (Hernandez), I think he’s the guy that makes them click.”

Sine actually has experience with the Slot-T. He installed it last spring, then junked it for their multiple-spread offense because he didn’t think it suited the Bulldogs’ personnel.

During the experimentation, he learned about the Slot-T and believes the key to containing it rests with defensive alignment and his players’ execution of their assignments. The misdirection of the Liberty Hill offense, which gives opposing defenses fits to some degree, is something he believes can be mitigated by staying focused.

“It’s not the X’s and O’s, it’s the Jimmys and the Joes,” Sine said.

The Panthers are aware the Bulldogs have the top-rated defense in District 14-4A Division I, allowing 21 points per game. They may not have a player that really stands out offensively or defensively, but that makes them similar to the Panthers, Vance said.

There won’t be any coasting.

“It just matters – you don’t ever want to slack off in any game you play,” Hernandez said. “You want to take it to them, no matter what their record, no matter what your record is.”

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