By KEITH SPARKS
Last season’s Brownwood game was undoubtedly one of the most exciting in Liberty Hill’s history, filled with blocked extra points, onside kick recoveries, 50-plus-yard field goals, and a game-winning overtime drive by the Panthers.
This Friday, Liberty Hill Head Coach Jeff Walker expects more of the same from an explosive Brownwood offense.
“It’s going to be real tough,” Walker said. “It’s going to be real tough. They’re pretty legit. I think they’re averaging 54 points a game right now, and they’ve played 5A Canyon and a top-ranked 4A team. Their offense is super explosive. We won’t see another offense this explosive.”
Brownwood is, in fact, averaging 54 points per game with a 60-20 win over Canyon on Sept. 1 and a 54-49 loss to Graham Sept. 8.
Their explosive offense comes from all over the place, including three running backs with more than 60 rushing yards on the season and three receivers with more than 120 receiving yards on the season.
Senior receiver Nic Salazar has led the charge for the Lions on the outside with 10 receptions, 194 yards, and four touchdowns this season, and senior running back Gavin Jefferson has led the way from the backfield with 140 total rushing yards and one touchdown on 28 carries.
Junior quarterback Tommy Bowden has been on fire through the air and on the ground, as well, having thrown for nine touchdowns and 593 yards while rushing for 88 yards and one touchdown.
“You really can’t key in on any one guy,” Walker said. “Their running back (Jefferson) is really legit, and the quarterback can run it and throw it. He’s got a great arm, and he’s got three receivers that are probably faster than anybody we’ve got on our team. Very, very skilled, so they spread you out, and their big back, who’s listed at six foot and 215 pounds and runs a 4.5, is a college-type back. The quarterback is probably going somewhere, too. They make it rough on you because they spread you out and they have so many weapons.”
Because their offense is so balanced, it’s nearly impossible to focus on shutting down one player or one aspect of their attack, according to Walker.
“They’re just good all over on offense,” he said. “They really are. Graham, last week, said, ‘We’re going to stop the run,” and they stopped the run and they threw for over 500 yards, so it’s one of those things where you can’t focus on one thing. You’ve just got to play good, solid defense. Read your keys, play hard, and have some big stops. Offensively, I don’t know if there’s just one player that really makes them go.”
While the Panthers had their own offensive showcase against La Vernia last week, Brownwood is a different beast altogether. According to Walker, they’re going to have to play a lot better on both sides of the ball for this week’s result to be a favorable one.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Walker said. “Once again, it’s just focusing on us and trying to get better. There’s a lot of our kids that were just sloppy. It was our first game and we weren’t firing on all cylinders like we were supposed to. We weren’t taking angles like we were supposed to. The effort was good, but it wasn’t in the right direction half the time. It’s just more routine, more games. We need more games. That’s why you play pre-district is to try to get ready for the district. We just need some more games under our belt.”
The Panthers will face off against the Lions at Panther Stadium for their second straight home game at 7:30 p.m. this Friday, Sept. 15.