Liberty Hill clinches district title with victory against Fredericksburg
By BOB VARMETTE
The Liberty Hill Panthers are District 14-4A Division I champions.
Beating back a second-half challenge, the Panthers held off the Fredericksburg Billies 45-35 Friday night on Senior Night at Panther Stadium, claiming their second straight district championship.
Kyle Reeh, a junior backup and utility player for the Billies, started the game in place of senior Kyle Grona, who separated his shoulder in practice Monday afternoon. Reeh threw for 229 yards in the second half.
The change in quarterbacks didn’t catch the Panthers totally by surprise.
“No, we were preparing for him,” Liberty Hill Jerry Vance said, noting that Reeh had previously started two other district games. “We knew that if we turned anybody loose that they were going to find him, and they did. We just made mistakes.”
Reeh finished 17-of-26 for 321 yards and four touchdowns – all in the second half. Reeh connected with Jonny Cleland on third-quarter touchdowns of 24 and 27 yards, and senior Jacob Hartman on scoring strikes of 43 and 70 yards in the fourth quarter.
The offense of Liberty Hill (7-2, 4-0 District 14-4A Div. I) had even more success against the defense of Fredericksburg (4-5, 1-3). The Panther rushed for 425 yards on 51 attempts.
“What they do offensively is so tough, it’s so hard to defend,” Fredericksburg coach Lance Moffett said. “They do a superior job of running that offense. That offense is all about if you do this then they do that. And they just got us on that a couple of times – a couple of big, explosive plays. They just came back to something they saw.”
Junior fullback Jon Shannon led the Panthers with 190 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries. All three scoring runs came in the second half, and all – as referenced by Moffett – came on big gains.
Shannon scored his first touchdown on a 17-yard run with 6:37 in the third quarter, giving Liberty Hill a 24-7 lead. On the Panthers’ next drive, a one-play drive, Shannon scored from 43 yards out.
He added his final score on a 21-yard run with 52.8 second in the game, putting the Panthers up 45-35, but scoring so quickly that it gave the Billies one last shot.
“If I’d been real smart, when Jon popped through there I would’ve yelled at him to get down,” Vance said. “Then they wouldn’t have had a chance, because they were out of time outs. If we had a first down, they would’ve never got the ball back.”
Shannon also had a 55-yard run in the second quarter that set up a 25-yard field goal by Lucas Rizzotto that gave the Panthers a 17-0 lead.
There were other big runs for Liberty Hill. Senior quarterback Nick Hernandez scored on a 25-yard run and finished with 89 yards on just nine carries; Logan Barnes, who ended with 90 yards on 12 carries, popped off a 43-yard run in the first quarter that led to a 6-yard scoring run by Barnes.
And senior Hunter Lindsay rushed for 56 yards, including a 25-yard run early in the third quarter that helped set up Hernandez’s score.
Whether it was three yards at a time, or big explosive plays, the Fredericksburg defense never found a way to limit the Liberty Hill offense.
“They’re starting to pick up on things,” Vance said.
And the defense, even though it allowed 439 total yards on the night, made its impact felt. The Panthers got their first defensive touchdown of the season when senior Jason Reeves returned an interception 40 yards for a touchdown to give Liberty Hill a 14-0 lead with 10 second left in the first quarter.
“It’s our last home game ever on this field,” Reeves, a senior linebacker, said. “I’m glad it was tonight, it couldn’t have been a better moment. This was the best feeling ever.”