Liberty Hill defeats Salado in soccer shootout

Slade Cummns brings a loose ball under control and heads toward the Salado goal. The Panthers beat the Eagles 8-7. (Shannon Hofmann Photo)

Slade Cummns brings a loose ball under control and heads toward the Salado goal. The Panthers beat the Eagles 8-7. (Shannon Hofmann Photo)

By Taylor Grafft

Despite being a first-year program, the Liberty Hill Panthers have proven to be a force in soccer and are looking to make some noise in the post season.

Last Friday, the Panthers traveled to Salado to take on the Eagles in their final district game of the season and won in a thrilling penalty shootout 8-7 to stay undefeated in district play.

The two teams battled it out over 80 minutes, with both teams having solid chances to break the deadlock, but neither could find the back of the net forcing extra time.

Liberty Hill (16-4-1, 6-0 District) had 11 shots in the match, with seven finding the target. Senior Liberty Hill goalkeeper Caleb Knight had a solid night between the post, stopping four shots on goal to keep his team in the match.

After 20 minutes of extra time, the teams were still unable to be separated forcing a penalty shootout.

Following the first round of penalty kicks, the teams were still tied after the first five takers, which forced five new players to step up in a sudden death style. The Panthers were able to come out on top and keep their dream of going undefeated in district alive.

With only three teams in Liberty Hill’s district, making the post season was always automatic. But a loss at any point in their district schedule would have been unsatisfying for Coach Darren Bauer and his preseason goal of making it through district unscratched.

Salado finished their district schedule with a 2-4 record. Lampasas finished in second placed with a 4-2 district record, while Jarrell finished district 0-6.

The previous meeting between Liberty Hill and Salado in February saw the Panthers defeating the Eagles 2-0 at home.

Liberty Hill has plenty of momentum going into the playoffs next week. The Panthers feature a solid starting 11, with no signs of weakness in the attack, midfield or defense.

Senior forward Lucas Rizzotto leads the Panthers in attack with 19 goals this season and 13 assists. Senior Kale Sudderth finished the regular season with 11 goals and 11 assists.

Knight finished the regular season with nine shutouts in 20 games as the Panthers’ shot-stopper.

While depth was thought to be an issue at the start of the season, several bench players have proven capable of coming in as super subs and scoring crucial goals this season.