Liberty Hill faces ‘dangerous’ Bay City in first round
By Keith Sparks
The entire objective of the playoff seeding system is to give those teams with the one-seed an earned advantage, allowing them the opportunity to play the fourth-place team in another district.
According to Head Coach Jeff Walker, however, the Panthers got the short end of the stick for their first-round matchup with Bay City.
“Very, very, very dangerous offensively,” Walker said of Bay City. “Probably as dangerous as we’ve seen all year. Quarterback scrambles really well and can eat up yards fast. He’s the real deal. He doesn’t probably throw it as well as the Hutto kid, but he runs way better.”
Bay City’s senior quarterback, Dylan Davidson (#2), is a dangerous dual-threat quarterback whose athleticism could give the Panthers nightmares. According to Walker, he’s capable of scrambling for 20-plus yards at any given moment.
“The scariest thing about them, by far, is their quarterback on the scramble,” Walker said. “He ran for 161 yards against El Campo, and I bet 120 of them were him scrambling. Any time you get him where he has to scramble, he goes. It’s scary. It can be third and 17 and he can go for 25 in a hurry. He’s done it all year. Every team we’ve seen them play, he’s done that multiple times. You think, ‘How are they letting him out of the pocket?’ He just finds a crease and goes.”
While Davidson will be priority number one for the Panther defense, he isn’t the only weapon on the Blackcats’ offense. Walker said junior running back RJ Mitchell (#22) is one of the best the Panthers have seen all season, and senior wide receiver James Carter (#9) is capable of catching a 50-plus-yard bomb and taking it to the house.
“Great running back that could be the best one we’ve seen, too,” Walker said. “He’s a big kid, and they have a good receiver, so they like to
throw the bomb and big-play you. They haven’t scored tons of points, which is kind of odd to me, but they have big-play potential all over the field, which as a coach keeps you awake at night.”
Unfortunately for the Panthers, the big play has been their defensive weakness all season. The Panther defense has looked nearly unstoppable at times against the run, but the Hail Mary has been an issue on more than a few occasions.
“We do not match up with them,” Walker said. “I would have rather played any other team in that district. This is just not a good matchup for us, so I’m a little concerned.”
With all that being said, why did the Blackcats finish fourth in district and barely squeak out a playoff spot? It isn’t for lack of talent, according to Walker, but they’ve simply “shot themselves in the foot.”
“People look at them and go, ‘Well, they’re 4-6, and we’re 8-1,’” Walker said. “People see their record and that they finished fourth in district, but if anybody could see the film on them, they shoot themselves in the foot. That’s the only reason they’re not 10-0. Every game I’ve watched, they’re the better team. They just fumble the ball at the wrong time, get a punt blocked at the wrong time. It’s that time after time after time.”
As a coach, Walker said it’s unsettling to have to rely on another team making mistakes, but that may be what it comes down to with the Bay City Blackcats.
“You just hope they continue to do it,” Walker said. “I told somebody today, if they don’t continue to shoot themselves in the foot, they can win it all. They’re that talented. As a coach, it scares you, just because you’re banking on them making some mistakes, and I’ve never done that before.”
As far as adjusting from facing Canyon Lake’s run-heavy Slot-T last week to a high-octane Spread this week, Walker said it shouldn’t be an issue, considering they’ve faced the Spread all season.
“It’s not hard to adjust, because we’ve seen Spread all year,” Walker said. “We’ve seen everything they’ll do to us all year. They run a little more option and that kind of stuff on offense, but we’re probably more comfortable playing against the Spread right now, because that’s what we’ve seen more often.”
For the first time this season, the Panthers are almost 100-percent healthy, minus those they lost for the season months ago. They will, however, be without starting center Josh Lapuszynski, who’s out with a shoulder injury but should be back next week if the Panthers stay alive. Junior Ryley Rosenbusch (#62) will take his place, who hasn’t had a whole lot of playing time this season, but Walker said should be able to hold his own despite a lack of size.
The Panthers’ first round matchup with Bay City will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16 at Buffalo Stadium in Giddings.