Rebels up next for Panthers

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By SCOTT AKANEWICH
Sports Editor

Liberty Hill’s football squad will certainly become familiar with Austin over the next couple seasons, as five of its six district opponents call the capitol of Texas home.

Following a non-district jaunt to Del Valle for the second contest of the current campaign, the Purple-and-Gold will return to South Austin for the second of three visits this fall with a journey to Burger Stadium and a date with Travis on Oct. 15 at 7:30 p.m.

After a comprehensive 76-0 homecoming victory over Crockett last time out, Liberty Hill head coach Jeff Walker and his team will pay the Rebels a visit, who are currently 0-2 on the season and coming off a 55-0 road defeat to Marble Falls in the district opener after a 38-10 loss to Bastrop to open the season.

However, Walker said Travis may have an advantage over most opponents the Panthers face in that last week’s opposition in Marble Falls also runs the Slot-T offense Liberty Hill has made famous.

“Well, it’s the second week in a row they’re playing against our offense,” he said. “So, it should help them a little bit.”

Walker might have a point, but the Mustangs certainly don’t run the offense quite like the Panthers do.

Liberty Hill is averaging 415 rushing yards per game after the opening three contests of the season and has an entire stable of running backs doing the damage.

Senior Trey Seward is the leading rusher with 50 carries for 447 yards and four touchdowns, while fellow seniors Blake Simpson (42 carries, 362 yards, five touchdowns) and Eric De La Cruz (33-294-4) have made for a formidable trio, combining the slashing of Seward with the bruising of Simpson and brute strength of De La Cruz, providing defenses with plenty to think about.

Perhaps the most telling stat of how potent the Panthers’ running game has been is the 9.3 yards-per-carry Liberty Hill is averaging every time they run the ball.

Additionally, senior quarterback Charlie Calabretta already has four touchdown passes on the young season – twice as many as the Panthers managed all last year.

In fact, all four of Calabretta’s completions have been scoring strikes and the signal-caller has a 141.4 quarterback rating to show for his precision.

On the defensive side of the ball, junior linebacker Andon Thomas continues to lead the Panthers with 32 tackles, a pair of sacks and against Crockett returned a fumble for a score and Lloyd Johnson also has two sacks on the season, along with a squad-best four hurries, while junior Carter Hudson leads the Panthers’ secondary with five passes defended.

One thing Walker continues to be concerned about is the conditioning of his club – something which he’s taking steps to address, he said.
“We had them run a timed 800 meters after we lifted weights today,” said Walker of his team’s Monday morning workout. “We’ve talked to the kids about our concerns in that area and the great thing is they understand and buy into it – they might not like it, but they still do it.”

Playing a Thursday night game is enough of an abnormality for a coach like Walker who is the ultimate creature of habit when it comes to getting ready for battle, but add in the fact Monday and Tuesday were school holidays and the fact there was college testing on Wednesday means there was no regular athletics period for the players on three consecutive days leading up to the game.

“Basically, we lose two hours and 15 minutes of practice for the week,” he said. “The whole thing is about as screwy as it gets and it scares me.”

Still, all that being said, Walker believes his team should have little trouble with the Rebels if they simply stick to the program.

“There have been bigger upsets before,” he said. “But, if we go and do what we’re capable of, we should be okay.”

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