Panther soccer blanks Jarrell 5-0 in district opener

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By Lance Catchings

The Liberty Hill Panthers (6-2-3, 1-0) opened District 27-4A play with a 5-0 win over Jarrell (6-7-2, 0-1) on a chilly Tuesday night at Panther Stadium.

Liberty Hill got off to a fast start when Jaron Frye tap danced around two defenders and netted a goal less than a minute into the game. Later in the first half, Frye netted another goal on a corner kick from Jesse Anaya, and Liberty Hill held at 2-0 lead at the halfway mark.

“The first half for us was pretty good,” Head Coach Darren Bauer said. “We had a couple mistakes and we didn’t really give up anything big off them. At times, we could have played better.”

In a couple games this season, the Panthers have allowed teams to get back into the game in the second half, but that was not the case Tuesday. Liberty Hill shutout Jarrell with strong defensive play from their back line and goalie Henry Madison, who had several nice stops on the night.

“We have been up 2-0 at halftime earlier this season and have lost the game or tied the game, so we did not want that,” Bauer said. “The big thing in the second half is making sure we stay sharp in the second half and take care of business. We hit a couple goals early on, and that helped put the game away for us. We were lacking that killer instinct earlier this year, and I think we are starting to get it. Our goalie situation is getting closer to where we need to be. It is still a toss-up every now and then. The big thing is the guys are gaining confidence in Henry and Uriel (Diaz), which is a big difference from earlier this year. Henry played all night tonight, but come Friday, it could be all Uriel. The competition is there between them, and hopefully they continue to improve.”

Jarrell played hard, and Bauer said that will be a weekly occurrence the rest of the season. Frye netted another goal in the second half for a total of three in the game. Mason Shipley and Colton Walter also got in on the action by netting a goal each.

“It is not just because it is district, but it’s because we are Liberty Hill,” Bauer said. “In every sport, we have a target on our back, and it seems like we are the team to beat. It doesn’t matter if we are the worst team in the district. If they beat us, then their season is made sometimes. We will get the best from everybody, and we expect that.”

The midfield for the Panthers played solid in controlling the ball for most of the game. The team also recently welcomed back senior Cade Campbell to the lineup, who had been out with an injury.

After the game, Frye was all smiles with his teammates for the win. Even though he is a marked man entering every game, he keeps his head up and plays hard.

“This is exactly what we practice for,” Frye said. “To come out and win district. We know our opponents will come out trying to win, because we are one of the best teams. They will always try to come and beat us, but we will be ready for them. It can be a little tough. I know all the teams we will play will try and mark me. I am just going to play and pass the ball to my teammates and tell them let’s go.”

As his team prepares to take on Florence Friday, Frye said they will keep their mindset sharp.

“This will be my first time playing Florence, and I don’t know if they have seen our highlights or anything,” Frye said. “I know for sure they will try to guard me, but I am always ready. My mindset is that I am always ready to score. I don’t think there are any defenders that can keep up with me. The only way they can keep up is to foul me from behind. When they foul me for no reason from behind, it just makes me want to beat them harder when I have the ball again. I am still going to do what I am trying to do.”

Last Friday, Liberty Hill dropped a 2-1 decision to third-ranked Stephenville. Bauer said the loss was a teaching moment for his team.

“We knew Stephenville would be a tough game,” he said. “They are ranked third in the state right now, and we saw them play at our tournament. We knew they were skilled and can beat anybody. I thought we played well, and it showed the guys that we can play with a good team. A few small things go different and that game can turn in our favor. It was a loss, but it helped build confidence in our guys. From playing Heritage, Stephenville and Progreso in pre-district, which I believe are three of the top teams in the state, we know we can play with them.”

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