Vance, Panthers gear up for intrasquad scrimmage

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The Liberty Hill High School football team began practice on Monday. The annual intrasquad scrimmage will be held at Panther Stadium about 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 6, followed by a barbecue fundraiser hosted by the Liberty Hill All Sports Booster Club. (Mike Schoeffel Photo)

The Liberty Hill High School football team began practice on Monday. The annual intrasquad scrimmage will be held at Panther Stadium about 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 6, followed by a barbecue fundraiser hosted by the Liberty Hill All Sports Booster Club. (Mike Schoeffel Photo)

By Mike Schoeffel

Football fans, rejoice. The season is finally here, and the games.

The next big date on the Liberty Hill High School football schedule is Saturday, Aug. 6, when head coach Jerry Vance and company will host the annual on-campus intrasquad scrimmage.

According to Vance, it will be a “big party,” of sorts, where the on-field action will be supplemented with a barbecue grill-out hosted by the Liberty Hill All Sports Booster Club. Team photos will be taken from 8-10 a.m., followed by the junior varsity and freshmen scrimmage from approximately 10:30-11:15 a.m. The varsity scrimmage — the main event, as it were — will start around 11:30 a.m. and last approximately an hour.

Historically, the blank game has operated as a proving grounds, of sorts, that allows Vance and his coaching staff to discover new talent and gauge how younger players perform under the spotlight.

“We’re looking to be exposed to kids we haven’t seen before,” he said. “Our main thing is to look at young kids and see how they do on the big stage. We’ll get a feel for how they’ll react. They’ll either go hard or quit.”

Vance said the scrimmage gives the greener players an opportunity to go at “Friday night speed, which is much faster than a lot of them are used to.”

Football practice officially began on Monday, giving the Panthers five full days of work before the big event. Vance expects his players to come into camp in “some semblance of shape,” and thus doesn’t necessarily focus entirely on conditioning itself, like many programs do. Instead, the coach tries to “practice them into shape,” working conditioning into the learning and coaching process.

“We go fast,” he said. “Coaches have learned to talk fast and coach on the run so we can get as many reps as we can as fast as we can. We do a little conditioning in itself at the end of practice, but for the most part we try to work it in with our coaching routine.”

There are about 160 kids in the program this season, approximately 55 at each level of the program — varsity, JV, and two freshmen squads. Vance said he’s never made cuts, instead opting to split the freshmen into two teams and allowing them to earn the right to work their way up through the ranks and, perhaps, onto Friday night stardom.

This year, those 160 kids will be part of a program that finished 10-3 in 2015 and won bi-district and area titles. The Panthers lost to La Vega — a team that went on to finish as 4A state champions at 16-0 — by a 6-0 final in overtime.

“I don’t remember any class that was complacent about what happened the year before,” said Vance. “They’re always ready to build on the previous season and create their own legacy.”

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