Panthers run roughshod over Grizzlies in opener
By Scott Akanewich
Things didn’t begin as planned for the Liberty Hill offense during its first possession of the Panthers’ season-opener at Glenn on Friday night.
Back-to-back holding and offside penalties stalled the drive before it began, forcing a punt.
However, head coach Jeff Walker’s squad quickly righted themselves and walked away with a 41-13 victory against the Grizzlies.
Blake Simpson, Trey Seward and Nash Robinson all had strong games out of the Liberty Hill backfield, as the Panthers rushed the ball seemingly at will against the Glenn defense.
Even quarterback Jacob Cearley got in on the act, throwing a pair of excellent blocks downfield to help spring long runs by his teammates, including a crusher on Simpson’s 24-yard scoring run in the first quarter to open the scoring.
Andon Thomas then stepped in front of a pass, intercepting it and returning it 23 yards for another touchdown, including a nifty spin move which left a Glenn tackler grasping at air.
The Panthers built on that 14-0 lead at the end of one when Seward ran one in from 11 yards out to make it 21-0 in favor of the visitors.
Glenn pulled back six points when Noah Reichold hit wideout Jarvis Henderson with a 10-yard scoring strike to slightly reduce the gap at the half with the score 21-6.
However, it didn’t take long for the Panthers to reclaim those points and then some, as Seward broke a 72-yard sprint for a score less than two minutes into the third quarter for a 28-6 advantage.
Henderson hauled in his second score of the night on a perfectly-executed screen pass which went for an 80-yard touchdown, but Cearley ran in from four yards out on the first play of the fourth quarter, followed by a three-yard Robinson rumble to provide the final margin.
As for the combined play of the three-headed monster of Simpson, Seward and Robinson, Walker was pleased.
“All three went over 100 yards,” he said. “We definitely got better than last week.”
One player who had a massive impact on the game was senior defensive lineman Walker Baty, who was all over the field, most notably wreaking havoc in the Glenn backfield including a fourth-quarter sack which helped close out the game. Drake Oberpriller rattled a Glenn receiver with a big hit over the middle moments later and the Grizzlies were vanquished.
The fact his defense responded so positively right after the offense had turned the ball over was a bright spot for Walker, he said.
“One of our goals is to make stops on defense after a sudden change in possession,” said Walker.
Matthew and Mason Shipley both had strong games, consistently providing poor field position for the home side with booming kickoffs and well-placed punts.
But, one thing which bothered the Panthers’ sideline boss after the game was that opening drive during which his offense looked a bit lost, he said.
“We had a lot of first-game stuff going on,” said Walker. “We can’t do that against good teams, so we have to work on fast starts and strong finishes.”
Next Friday, the Panthers will host Hutto in their home opener at 7:30 p.m.