PANTHER OF THE WEEK: Senior transfer Elijah Davis leads rushing attack against Calhoun despite illness

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Running back Elijah Davis (#7) breaks a tackle against Port Lavaca Calhoun Sept. 22. In a 41-28 loss to the Sandcrabs, Davis finished with 120 rushing yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries while dealing with a stomach illness. (Alex Rubio Photo)

By LANCE CATCHINGS

When the Liberty Hill Panthers take the field on Friday nights it is clear that they have power, but these days, they also have speed. That speed comes from senior running back Elijah Davis, who can often be found pulling away from defenders on long runs.

Davis, a transfer from Fort Walton, Florida, said his mother found the community of Liberty Hill and it is one of the best things to happen to him.

“My mom wanted to get away from Florida,” Davis said. “We were looking around the Austin area, because she wanted me in a good community at a place with good football. We found Liberty Hill and spoke with coach Jerry Vance who said it would be a big year for the Panthers. It’s a great community, so we decided to settle here.”

Davis arrived in Liberty Hill in February, just three days before newly appointed head coach Jeff Walker made his return to the program. This allowed him to go through spring practice and off-season conditioning with his new teammates.

“It was very different coming here from Florida, because there is a lot of hospitality over here,” Davis said. “The community really welcomed me in. Hunter Oncken, Ethan Thom and Kyle Harrison were really nice to me and welcomed me into the Liberty Hill program, and we got to work. I was a little nervous coming here, but I trusted my mom. She and I have a very good relationship. I believed in her and took a step out into the water and let God lead me. I got to Liberty Hill and three days after, coach Jeff Walker got here as the Head Coach. He was very welcoming and said be ready to work, because offseason is no joke. We got to work and he was not joking when he said it would be tough. We had great summer workouts with high attendance and our minds on the right thing, which is a State Championship. Offseason as a whole was great for us.”

Davis has much respect and admiration for Walker and believes in his program. He was excited to experience his first taste of Texas high school football and was not disappointed.

“I knew fall practices would be pretty tough but they were honestly really hard,” he said. “Coach Walker pushes us to be great, and I knew within the first two weeks he pushed me pretty hard. He pushed me mentally and physically. At times, it was rough, but we got through it. I really do thank him for that. He is the greatest coach I have ever been coached by. The atmosphere here is so much different compared to Friday night lights in Florida. The Liberty Hill fan base truly loves the football team. Coming out of that banner and seeing the home side energy the fans have for us just makes you want to play harder for them.”

The Panthers suffered their first loss of the season against Port Lavaca Calhoun last Friday, Sept. 22, but on the second play of the game, Davis used his speed to break free for a 75-yard touchdown. He had 10 carries for 120 yards and one touchdown in the loss.

“I came around the edge and Lakota Lawrence hit his man, and I saw daylight so I turned it on and didn’t look back,” he said. “I am not one of those guys that likes to look back when I run. I just look forward and if I get in I get in, that’s always the goal.”

Though Davis wouldn’t make excuses for the loss, Walker admitted that Davis was throwing up during the game due to an illness that limited his carries. Davis attributed the Panthers’ loss to mental mistakes and underestimating their opponent.

“Calhoun was a tough opponent, but we also had some mental mistakes,” he said. “Honestly, I think we underestimated them a little bit. Coach Walker told us all week they had some tough kids, and they did. We didn’t have that normal chip on our shoulder and thought we would score on them all night, and that wasn’t the case. This week, we will step it up, and I think the loss did a lot for us in a positive way. We will learn from our mistakes and we see that we are not unstoppable.”

In his senior season, Davis hopes to leave a lasting legacy on the Liberty Hill community that has embraced him and his family.

“As a senior, Coach Walker asks us all the time how we want to be remembered,” Davis said. “Not in a selfish way, but I want to leave a lasting legacy on Liberty Hill High School. I would like people to talk years from now about how great we were to the community and as a football team.”

Davis and the Panthers will have an opportunity to bounce back this Thursday, Sept. 28, against the Austin Anderson Trojans.

Lance@LHIndependent.com

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