Liberty Hill 7on7 steadily improving against high-level competition

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By Keith Sparks
This season, the Panthers’ 7on7 teams are competing at a higher level than they have before, moving up to face 6A schools like Westwood, Austin Anderson, and Round Rock. Although they’ve taken their lumps early, Coach Shawn Lapuszynski is confident the high-level competition will work to their advantage in the fall.

“What’s looking good for Liberty Hill is we’re doing 7on7 with 6A schools and our pre-district this year is all 5A schools for tackle football,” Lapuszynski said, “then we’ll go on to district, so I think just really exposing our kids to the highest level of competition is going to get them ready. Whenever we play our level of competition, the game seems to slow down a little bit.”

Liberty Hill has gone 0-4 so far against 6A schools during their weekly competitions at Westwood High School as the only 4A school in the league. One of the biggest hurdles, Lapuszynski said, is playing in a passing league against teams that pass the ball much more often during their school season.

“I’d say route development and timing, just because we run the ball a lot,” Lapuszynski said of the other schools’ biggest advantages. “They go over that and over that and over that, so knowing where their routes are at certain times, really the timing and route development is where they’re definitely ahead of us.”

The Panthers had only three practices to prepare for the Westwood Spring 7on7 Passing League, and their typical Slot-T run-heavy offense is worthless amongst 7on7 competition during which lineman are obsolete and passing is king.

“We went over there and we only had three practices or so, and these guys have been practicing a lot,” Lapuszynski said, “so our first couple weeks weren’t too impressive. We played them hard, but we lost to Anderson two touchdowns to one last week and we lost to Westwood four touchdowns to two touchdowns.”

On Saturday, the Panthers competed in their first ever 7on7 State Qualifier Tournament, finishing just one win away from qualifying for the State Championship Tournament in College Station.

Liberty Hill went 2-1 in the tournament that featured schools closer in size to Liberty Hill, beating Bandera by a final score of 48-13, Brownwood by a score of 19-13, and losing to Fredericksburg in a back-and-forth battle by a final score of 33-27.

“We went to a tournament this past weekend, and we actually did pretty well,” Lapuszynski said. “We should have won against Fredericksburg, but we made a couple mistakes and then we had to play back to back to back and the kids got kind of hot. I think it affected our defense a little bit.”

After playing against 6A schools during their weekly competitions, Lapuszynski is confident that the Panthers can beat just about any 4A schools that stand in their way. Playing against future Division I athletes that are faster and more experienced in the passing game makes 4A competition seem that much slower, Lapuszynski said.

“Entering a tournament with teams that have been doing that a long time and have done it at that level for a while can only help us,” Lapuszynski said. “I scouted around three or four different teams at that tournament, and I didn’t see a single team over there, and these were schools our size, that we couldn’t compete with or possibly beat.”

After only a few weeks playing against 6A competition, Lapuszynski has seen his team improve to the point that they’re “beating passing teams at their own game” when they play against 4A teams.

“The greatest factor I observed is how aggressive and hard our boys play,” Lapuszynski said. “They were beating passing teams at their own game. When the pads are on, this LHHS team is going to be like trying to grasp running water with your hands to say the least.”

The junior varsity 7on7 team has gone 2-2 over the first two weeks, losing to Westwood and Anderson in week one and beating both schools in week two.

Liberty Hill has the next two weeks off before both varsity and JV teams pick back up at Westwood on June 12 and June 19.

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