Vance praises Panthers’ toughness, resilience through difficult football season
By KEITH SPARKS
Now that the Panthers’ football season is officially over, let’s take a look at some of Liberty Hill’s most impactful players this season, and how their numbers compare to last year. It is worth mentioning that the Panthers played 12 games this year, compared to 13 the year before.
Quarterback – Senior
Wright completed 26 of his 61 passing attempts this season, a 43 percent completion rate, throwing for 7 touchdowns and 6 interceptions on 413 passing yards. Those numbers resulted in a 64.5 QB rating. Wright’s completions, attempts, completion percentage, yards, and touchdowns were all up from last season, though his interceptions were up, as well, resulting in a lower QB rating. In 2015, Wright completed 11 of 29 passes for a 38 percent completion rate, including 4 touchdowns, 1 interception, and 231 yards for a 92.1 QB rating.
On the ground, Wright finished with 443 yards on 70 carries for 5 rushing touchdowns. Those numbers were up significantly from 2015, when he carried the ball 45 times for 189 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Tight End/Defensive End – Senior
On the defensive end, Ware finished with 45 total tackles, 6 of which were tackles for a loss. He also finished with a team-high 4 sacks. All of his numbers were up this year, except his tackles for losses, which he had 7 of in 2015. He finished with 28 tackles and half of a sack in 2015.
On the offensive end, Ware caught 2 passes for 34 yards and a touchdown this season. He had zero receptions in 2015.
Cornerback/Returner – Senior
Joiner had the fifth most all-purpose yards for the Panthers, finishing with 301 total. He had 191 kick return yards, 79 punt return yards, 26 interception return yards, and 5 rushing yards. His total yardage was down slightly from the 2015 season, during which he had 347 all-purpose yards, including 183 kick return yards, 139 punt return yards, and 25 interception return yards.
Defensively, Joiner finished with a team-high 2 interceptions this year, down from 7 in 2015. He finished with 20 total tackles this year, down from 47 in 2015.
Middle Linebacker – Senior
Becker led the Panthers in tackles this season with 94, 11 of which were for a loss. Both of those numbers were up from the 2015 season, when he led with 74 total tackles and 9 tackles for a loss. He also had 2 sacks this year, compared to just 1 last season.
Running Back – Sophomore
In his first full season with the varsity team, though he did miss some games with an injury, Sanders rushed for 480 yards and 6 touchdowns, in addition to catching 3 passes for a team-high 74 receiving yards and 1 receiving touchdown.
As a freshman, playing only five games with the varsity team last year, Sanders finished with 201 rushing yards and 1 touchdown with zero receptions.
Fullback – Junior
In his first season with Liberty Hill’s varsity team, Oncken led the Panthers’ rushing attack with 1,030 yards this season, finishing as the only Panther to rush for 1,000 yards. He finished with a team-high 9 rushing touchdowns, as well.
Running Back – Senior
White finished with 877 rushing yards and 7 rushing touchdowns, both of which were up from last season. As a junior in 2015, he played only 4 games with the varsity team and finished the season with 280 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Middle Linebacker – Senior
Burns finished the season with 79 total tackles, good for the second most tackles on the team. Five of those were tackles for a loss. In 2015, in only 6 games played, Burns finished with 11 total tackles, 2 of which were for a loss.
Strong Safety – Senior
Allman finished his senior year with 52 total tackles, 6 of which were for a loss, and 1 sack. In 2015, Allman finished with 29 total tackles, 7 tackles for a loss, and 2.5 sacks.
Defensive End – Senior
Dudgeon had 53 total tackles in the 2016 season, 2 of which were for a loss, and 1 sack. As a junior in 2015, he finished with 21 tackles, 5 of which were for a loss. He also had 2 sacks in 2015.
Kicker – Junior
In his first season on varsity, Shipley converted 12 of his 34 field goal attempts and 36 of his 39 PATs. His longest field goal of the season was 50 yards, which tied the game against Brownwood. He scored 72 total points on the season.
The Panthers finished the 2016 season with an 8-4 record, compared to 10-3 last year. They lost in the third round of the playoffs each time.
The team dealt with a number of injuries down the stretch in 2016, and had a few impact players miss games due to undisclosed, non-injury related reasons. Liberty Hill Head Coach Jerry Vance praised his team for their toughness and resilience through a difficult season.
“I think, and I told the kids this, I’m so impressed with how resilient and how tough our kids were,” Vance said. “You always want to present calmness and all of that to the outside world, kind of like a duck on water, you know. It doesn’t look like much is going on up top, but you’re paddling like hell underneath. Our kids did a lot of paddling this year.”
The Panthers will take this week off, and immediately get back to offseason workouts next Monday.