By KEITH SPARKS
After a controlled Purple and White Scrimmage that included lots of stoppages from coaches who saw something they didn’t like, the Panthers will move on to scrimmage Alvarado in a less-controlled environment on Saturday.
Although it’s up to the host team to set the agenda, Liberty Hill Head Coach Jeff Walker expects the scrimmage against Alvarado to feature more live action than the Purple and White Scrimmage August 12.
“I’m sure there will be some times where we play a quarter, the coaches are off the field, and it’s actually live football,” he said. “We’ll do that a lot. We’ve got to get ready. It won’t be nearly as structured or as cautious (as the Purple and White Scrimmage). We’re going to go. It’ll be similar, but it’s going to be a lot more intense. Now, we expect our guys to knock them in the other direction. It’s hard to get real intense against your buddies, but when we go to Alvarado we expect the intensity to be turned up tenfold. We’re excited about that, finally getting to go against somebody else.”
The Panthers will travel for two and a half hours to Alvarado on Saturday after meeting on campus at 6:15 am. While it isn’t ideal to make such a long road trip for a preseason scrimmage, Walker explained that it’s hard to get teams to scrimmage against Liberty Hill because of their offensive system. Most coaches would rather not scrimmage against a team that runs a Slot-T offense that they won’t see at all during the regular season.
“It’s not so much that we’re Liberty Hill, but it’s what we do,” Walker said. “Nobody wants to see our offense, because they’ll only see it that one time. Why scrimmage against it? So we struggle really heavily. We have to go to Port Lavaca, we have to go to Alvarado, we have to go to those places like Brownwood. A lot of people don’t want to play us just because of what we do.”
Walker’s hope for the Panthers on Saturday is that they’ll play a faster and more physical football game than they did in the Purple and White Scrimmage, which shouldn’t be too difficult a task considering it will be their first competition of the season against an opponent.
“My biggest thing is I want us to be more physical and I want us to play faster,” Walker said about his expectations for Saturday. “I don’t think they’ve shown that, yet, and I’m a little concerned. In today’s society, it’s hard to get kids to run into each other. They’ve been told not to run into kids, you know, don’t hit that kid. They get in trouble for it in our society. We need to play at a faster pace and we need to become more physical. I want to see us take the fight to them.”
Last season, the Alvarado Indians finished with a 9-3 overall record after losing in the second round of the playoffs to Paris High School. Walker expects Alvarado to be a tough team, citing a story he heard about the Indians “embarrassing” the Panthers during a preseason scrimmage two years ago.
“We got off the bus in Alvarado two years ago and they embarrassed us. They really took it to us. We need to get off the bus and go,” Walker said. “We need to take it to them. They’ll be a physical bunch, so I want to mash them. I want to be physical and I want to be fast. That’s what we’ve been preaching.”
The Indians’ physical brand of football is exactly what the Panthers need to see right now, according to Walker. The Panthers’ lack of physicality was one of Walker’s biggest gripes with the intrasquad scrimmage, so he’s excited to see how his team responds to an increased sense of physicality.
“They’ll be somewhat like La Grange,” Walker said of Alvarado’s style of play. “They’re not real tricky, but they’ll run right at you. They’re a pretty physical bunch. That’s what they do. I think last year’s scrimmage I only saw them in the shotgun twice. Otherwise, they’re in the Power I and they’re running right at you. They’re running bootlegs and stuff like that. It’s not going to be a Spread where they sling it everywhere. It’s, ‘We’re going to run right at you with our big ones. We’re going to try to mash you.’ I’m excited, because we need somebody to get physical with, and hit us in the mouth and see how we respond. I expect them to hit us in the mouth pretty hard. We’ll see if our kids bow up or shut up.”
The Panthers will face the Indians on Saturday, August 19, at 11 a.m. at Alvarado High School. Their final scrimmage will take place against the Taylor Ducks next Friday, August 25, at 6 p.m. at Panther Stadium.