Panther football history recorded for 40 years
By LANCE CATCHINGS
If you look up to the press box from the Liberty Hill football field there is a room to the far right filled with laughter, talk of old times and quite a bit of work going on. That room is where four Liberty Hill men have watched 40-plus years of Panther football and recorded stats for the football team. This season the four-man team of Gary Spivey, Larry Floyd, Paul Curtis and Sam Blair are exuberant as ever for Panther football.
“We got started working stats with the athletic program because we had lost our high school and just got it back,” said volunteer statistics keeper Gary Spivey.
“Once they started an athletic program back up, which was roughly 1976, the school didn’t have much money and we wanted to help. We volunteered to do whatever they needed from track meets to all kinds of stuff. That also included the football statistics. We record the offensive statistics for the game. We used to call in to the American-Statesman and give them the results. Once our program came to life in the 1980s and 1990s the American-Statesman was excited to hear from us.”
Spivey and company can give you an entire run down of Liberty Hill football history in just a few minutes, mainly because they were there to watch it all take place.
“When we got the high school back the first coach was Daryl Moffitt and then Charlie Braun came in 1978,” he said. “We used to play our games at Leander Stadium, but it was not the stadium they have now. Our facilities were not yet adequate at that time. Once we built the old stadium in 1980 we started playing our games there.”
Spivey said he and his friends have been lucky enough to see quite a bit of talent come through Liberty Hill as they recorded statistics.
“We have seen some good athletes come through this program,” he said. “We also have seen times where we were a little down and out, but the kids were always good kids and played hard. There were just times where we were out-gunned. Sometimes we played teams that had twice as many players as we did. Once coach Charlie Braun came in the athletic program picked up quite a bit and we won district for several years in many sports. He moved on to another school and we had a few years with Coach Johnston and Cox and they did well with what we had.”
One of the biggest impacts to the program and the stat sheets was when head Coach Jerry Vance was hired with the program.
“When Coach Vance was hired the athletic program had deteriorated and so had the fan base. When Coach Vance came in the football program only had about 50 kids and roughly 18 on varsity. If memory serves me right despite those obstacles he only had one losing season.”
As they have seen the new facilities built and the program rise to prominence the stat sheets, seasons and enjoyment has gotten longer.
“It is exciting for us old timers that have been around to see how successful the program has become,” he said. “It is interesting to see how the community reacts. Ever since Coach Vance came in our fan base has been fantastic and Coach (Jeff) Walker is continuing that on. If you look at the overall athletic program now they win district in almost everything. I think the success we have had is a combination of many things. You must first have someone that believed in the program. When Coach Braun came in he really believed in it and the kids believed in him. When Vance came in his work ethic was just unbelievable to help build the program and now Walker is doing those things as well.”
None of the group must be there every Friday night and they do not get paid for the meticulous work they do. They simply enjoy high school football and want to help their community.
“Our bunch is unique,” he said. “All of us were on the school board at some time or another and all of us coached. We have a former superintendent in Paul Curtis who has worked with us for several years. Sam Blair was on the Leander school board when they built A.C. Bible, Jr. Memorial Stadium. When he moved to Liberty Hill then he got involved with us and decided to help us keep stats. It is just something we do to give back to the community and we enjoy it.”
Last year they lost a member of the team who worked with them for many years.
“Billy Ray Guerin had a son and grandson that were both great athletes and he helped us for many years until he passed away last year,” Spivey said.
“We keep thinking that as old as we’re getting they will probably get rid of us at some point, but we try to do the best that we can. What we have enjoyed is watching the kids change through the years. Many times, we get to see the better players that come on as freshmen and sophomores and we get to watch them develop through their senior season and that has been exciting for us. We hope to keep helping as long as we can. Sam is in his 90s and Paul’s in his 70s. Larry and I are in our late 70s. It has changed a lot since we’ve started. We’d like to have another 20 years on it, but we’ll wait and see.”
Spivey and friends hope to see the Panthers bring home another state championship and plan to keep stats as long as they can.