Panthers will host Hutto in rematch of high-scoring affair

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By Scott Akanewich

Last season, Liberty Hill and Hutto combined for 103 points in a 52-51 overtime win for the Hippos on their home field, inflicting the Panthers with their only regular-season loss in the process.

Gone is quarterback Chase Griffin, who is currently slinging pigskins on the shores of the Pacific at UCLA, but by no means is this year’s version any less dangerous offensively, said Liberty Hill head Coach Jeff Walker.

“We have to keep the ball away from their offense,” he said. “Their front five are the toughest we’re going to see all year long. In my opinion, three of the five are Division-I prospects.”

According to Walker, it’s a case of the irresistible force against the immovable object.

“Our strength is to run the ball and their strength is to stop the run,” said Walker.

The Panthers rushed for 456 yards in the opener against Glenn, with Blake Simpson’s 190 yards leading the way. Not far behind were Trey Seward (115 yards) and Nash Robinson (105) to give the Panthers a multi-threat out of the backfield, which is exactly the plan, said Walker.

“One of our goals every season is to get all three of our running backs 1,000 yards,” he said. “It’s a dream we live by every day and it takes a very special team to do it.”

Senior quarterback Jacob Cearley chipped in with 46 rushing yards and a touchdown and added a pair of picture-perfect downfield blocks to his portfolio, proving he’s not afraid to mix it up physically long after he’s handed the ball off to a teammate.

Along those lines, Simpson was also credited with the Panthers’ first pancake block of the season on a play during which he burst through an opening in the line while carrying out a fake and put a Glenn linebacker flat on his back.

On the defensive side of the ball, senior linebacker Drake Oberpriller was the leading tackler for the Purple-and-Gold with 11, while junior Canyon Schirpik added 10 with Aaron Brewer, Austin Knox and Andon Thomas each recording eight.

Walker Baty, who was a menace on defense all game long, picked up a sack, while Schirpik also notched one on the night.

Hutto is led by sophomore signal-caller Grayson Doggett, who threw for 265 yards in the Hippos’ opening-week 42-21 victory over West Mesquite and senior running back Mekhi Kimble, who ran for 161 yards in the game.

Walker said he’s wary of the Hippos’ big-play capability.

“Their quarterback can do enough to get the ball to their playmakers,” he said. “They’ll dink and dunk you, then try to hit you with a long one.”

So, would another wild, high-scoring affair this year suit his squad?

“We don’t care about the score,” said Walker. “We just go out to win the game.”

However, the Hippos do pose question marks for his club, he said.

“Hutto is going to be a very big challenge for us,” said Walker. “What we want to do is keep getting first downs and keep their offense off the field.”

As far as he’s concerned, the Hippos definitely know what they’re up against this time around.

“Last year, I think we sneaked up on them,” he said. “But, we have to play good teams to get better.”

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