Pirates take the win over Panthers, 33-18

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By KEITH SPARKS
Against an offense as explosive as Waco La Vega’s, the name of the game for the Panthers is to keep them off the field. On their first drive of the game, they did just that, holding possession for more than seven minutes before the Pirates’ offense even saw the field.

As it turns out, time of possession didn’t mean much in the Panthers’ first district contest of the season. The Panthers held onto the ball for the majority of the game, but were unable to put points on the board as their red zone struggles continued in a 33-18 loss to an undefeated Waco La Vega.

The Panthers were unable to get into the end zone on their first drive, but kicker Michael Shipley was good from 37 yards out on a field goal to give the Panthers a 3-0 lead with 4:53 left in the first quarter.

Liberty Hill’s defense was able to hold the potent Pirate offense to a punt on their first possession, and Liberty Hill looked poised to score again as they took the ball all the way to the opposing 3-yard line. Their progress was all for naught, however, as a fumble close to the goal line was returned 97 yards by La Vega’s two-way stud Kemoche’ Hobbs for their first points of the game as time expired at the end of the first quarter.

Although the Panther offense absolutely dominated time of possession in the first quarter, they found themselves down 6-3 after La Vega’s kicker missed the extra point off the upright.

The Panthers’ next possession was another long, drawn out, run-heavy drive that ended in a turnover on downs on fourth and 20.

La Vega struggled to get much going on the first few plays of their next possession, but Hobbs found room to run on third and 6 and was able to break free for a 59-yard run, his second touchdown of the game. The Pirates failed to convert on the ensuing two-point attempt, taking a 12-3 lead with 3:40 left in the second quarter.

True to their nature, the Panthers held possession for the rest of the half. Running back Kyle Harrison showed off his speed on a 43-yard run to the opposing 20-yard line. Harrison got the call again with 28 seconds left in the first half, running for 10 yards and getting out of bounds to stop the clock. With no timeouts left, the Panthers were unable to score before time expired, as a number of runs up the middle were stopped short and the clock continued to run.

At halftime, the Pirates held a 12-3 lead over the Panthers.

La Vega started the second half with the ball, and looked as if they’d increase their lead almost immediately, as they quickly drove within the Panthers’ 10-yard line, but sophomore defensive back Brady Brewer had other plans.

La Vega quarterback Jamal Williams kept the ball on a designed run play, but was stopped near the 5-yard line. While he was fighting for extra yardage, Brewer simply took the ball away from him and returned it all the way to the opposing 25-yard line himself. Unfortunately, the Panthers couldn’t capitalize and were stopped on fourth down for a turnover on downs.

La Vega was forced to punt on their next possession, after which the Panthers made some progress, offensively. Hunter Oncken ran for a couple of crucial first downs, and Harrison followed those up with a 36-yard touchdown run on a pitch to the outside, bringing the Panthers within 2 points in a 12-10 ballgame in favor of the Pirates.

The close game was short lived, as Pirates’ running back John Richards took off for a 73-yard touchdown run on their second play of the drive, giving them a 19-10 lead after the extra point.

The Panthers were forced to punt on their next possession, followed by a rushing onslaught from the Pirates, who ran all over the Liberty Hill defense, ultimately finishing the drive with an 18-yard touchdown run by Hobbs to take a 26-10 lead with 7:45 left in the game.

The Panthers turned the ball over on downs once again late in the fourth quarter, followed by another rushing clinic by the Pirates. Cameron Henry scampered for 42 yards before being knocked out at the 1-yard line. The Panthers put up a valiant effort at the goal line, but only ended up running out more clock as the Pirates scored again on a pitch to Richards for a 6-yard touchdown run to make it 33-10 with 3:26 left.

Reid Sanders scored his first touchdown of the season in his first game back from injury with just over a minute to play, and the Panthers failed to recover the onside kick en route to a 33-18 loss.

The Panthers’ record fell to 3-2, overall, and 1-0 in district while the Pirates remained atop the district with an undefeated 6-0 overall record and 1-0 district record.

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