Liberty Hill falls to La Vega 35-21 in State Championship
By Keith Sparks
Two of the highest-scoring teams in the state faced off at AT&T Stadium for the State Championship on Friday, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the score. La Vega beat Liberty Hill by a final score of 35-21, which was the lowest-scoring game of the season for Liberty Hill and among the lowest for La Vega.
The fact that both teams had such a hard time scoring the ball is a credit to their respective defenses, who played lights out on either end for the majority of the game. The first half, in particular, was a defensive battle by every definition, ending with a 7-7 halftime score.
The Panthers have typically made the running game look easy week-in and week-out, but they hadn’t yet played the Pirates. The Pirates made everything difficult for the Panther backfield, not allowing a run of longer than 17 yards in the first half.
Liberty Hill’s defense looked just as good, however, holding the La Vega offense to 103 yards of total offense in the first half. The Pirates’ only touchdown of the first half came on a 35-yard touchdown run by Jar’Que Walton.
The Panthers’ only touchdown of the first half come on a 4-yard touchdown run by Kyle Harrison, but the defense made the Panthers work for every single yard.
The second half started on a sour note for Liberty Hill and could not have gone better for the Pirates as they ran back the second-half opening kickoff for a touchdown to give La Vega a 14-7 lead.
The Panther defense finally started to cave midway through the third quarter, as La Vega wide receiver Malachi Wright, who finished as the Offensive MVP of the game, had back-to-back touchdown receptions of 89 and 61 yards in the third quarter alone.
Down 28-7 with just under nine minutes left to play, Liberty Hill’s offense finally started to look like it had all season. Quarterback Jacob Cearley found room to run for a 9-yard touchdown.
Unfortunately, however, the La Vega offense started to look like it had all season, too. Star running back John Richards, who was kept in check during the first half, took off for a 43-yard touchdown run.
Cearley scored once more on a 3-yard touchdown run, but it was too little too late.
On a positive note, Harrison officially set the single-season Centex rushing record, finishing the game with 114 rushing yards, making his season total 2,875 yards. The previous record of 2,865 was set in 2006 by Giddings’ Brock Fitzhenry.
Panther fans and Pirate fans, alike, showed up in droves. The attendance at AT&T Stadium was19,218, and it looked to be pretty evenly split between the two sides.
Liberty Hill finished their season with a 13-2 overall record and their first State Championship appearance since 2007.