Ware has become savvy senior leader for Panthers

Head Coach Jerry Vance (left) says senior Carter Ware, a defensive end for the Panthers, leads with enthusiasm. (Alex Rubio Photo)

Head Coach Jerry Vance (left) says senior Carter Ware, a defensive end for the Panthers, leads with enthusiasm. (Alex Rubio Photo)

By Mike Schoeffel

Carter Ware was a sophomore starter at defensive end in 2014 when the Liberty Hill football team made a run to the 4A state semifinals.

Fast forward to 2016. Ware, now a senior, has developed into one of the most invaluable upperclassman leaders on head coach Jerry Vance’s defense, sharing that role with guys like linebacker Andy Becker, corner Dyllon Joiner, safety Logan Hester, and fellow defensive end Johnny Dudgeon.

“I got a lot of experience that year,” Ware said of his sophomore season. “There were a lot of key seniors on that team, like Jacob Covington, Austin Thrash, and a few other guys. I kind of learned from them and have tried to apply what they’ve taught me through the years.”

Ware, now in his final varsity season, is indeed passing on lessons to a new crop of young Panther players during a year in which the Panthers (5-3, 2-2) may be poised to make another deep run in the postseason.

“I think starting at such a young age helped me a lot because I can teach some of the younger guys what I’ve been through,” he said. “I’ve been able to show them how to control their emotions during the game. I’ve tried to teach them how to play with a higher IQ, to learn more about the game so they can help their teammates learn more.”

With Ivy League schools casting their light on the 6’4”, 240-pound defensive end, it’s apparent Ware himself is a high-IQ player. He’s developed a sort of cerebral approach to the game that Vance has witnessed first hand over the last three years. Vance also praised Ware’s energy, saying his “motor is always running hot.”

“Carter leads not only by example but with enthusiasm,” said Vance. “Starting for three years at defensive end, he has had to react to a lot of different situations and athletes. Carter has that wealth of knowledge to draw from and help the younger players.”

Though Ware is known first and foremost as a stout defensive presence, he’s also a contributor on offense.

Though the majority of his job as a tight end consists of throwing blocks for the Panthers famed Slot-T, run-heavy offense, Ware reaps the benefits of the passing game every so often. Two weeks ago against Burnet, he caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Garrett Wright. It was his first reception of the season.

The Panthers went on to win, 44-23, over their bitter rivals, thanks to an uncommonly prolific day through the air: Wright finished four of seven for 110 yards and three touchdowns. Coming into the game, Wright had attempted just 30 passes all season.

“That was nice,” said Ware. “It’s rare that we throw as much as we did (against Burnet), so I was glad I was able to contribute whenever I was called upon.”

With his varsity career winding down, Ware has had some time to reflect on what and who he’s playing for out there under the Friday night lights. He plans on competing in college at “the Division I or Division II level,” he said, but admits that playing at Liberty Hill has been a special experience enhanced by tight relationships with his fellow players and coaches.

It’s those relationships, he said, that keep him inspired on the field.

“A lot of the time I play for coaches I’ve gotten close with over the years,” he said. “I think we have some of the best coaches in the state. I play for my parents, too, because they’ve pushed me to become better and they want me to do the best I can each and every game.”