Liberty Hill to be tested by Del Valle


Sports Editor

When the Panthers secondary lines up against Del Valle on Friday night, across the line of scrimmage will be the top-rated wide receiver recruit in the entire country in Cardinals senior Caleb Burton – a player who has already received 37 scholarship offers from the likes of Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Texas, USC and Stanford – just to name a few.

So, when Liberty Hill head coach Jeff Walker speaks of his team being challenged by stepping up to play Class 6A opponents in this, their first season of being a Class 5A program, this is exactly what he’s talking about.

“They also have a Division I running back,” said Walker. “We’re talking about a school system which has 11,000 students – they’re very athletic and it should be a real test for us.”

However, the Panthers faced a similar test in the opener last week against another Class 6A squad in Killeen Ellison and emerged with a dominant 44-25 home victory.

Still, Walker wasn’t completely happy with how his team played, he said.

“We obviously need to cut down on our mistakes – we were just sloppy,” said Walker. “Stuff like snapping the ball right, not being where we’re supposed to be, committing turnovers and taking nine penalties.”
One need look no further than a brief glance at some game film to discern this conclusion, he said.

“Watch about 10 seconds of film and you’ll see it,” said Walker. “Careless mistakes we shouldn’t make after so many practice reps, like going the wrong way. But, all of it’s correctable.”

Despite the harsh criticism of his club, Walker had to have been happy with his offense, which rolled up an impressive 520 rushing yards led by senior Trey Seward, who carried 27 times for 238 yards and three touchdowns on the evening.

But, Seward wasn’t alone in the ground attack as fellow seniors Blake Simpson (19 carries, 135 yards, one touchdown) and Eric De La Cruz (17, 126, one TD) formed an unstoppable trio for senior quarterback Charlie Calabretta, who also had an efficient performance, including a 35-yard scoring pass to Seward in the contest.

In all, the Panthers racked up 555 yards of total offense and 638 all-purpose yards on the night, something which is encouraging to Calabretta.

“We’re really rolling offensively,” he said.

On the other side of the line of scrimmage, the Panthers’ defense staged a remarkable turnaround after being burned for three long touchdowns and 18 points in the opening quarter against Ellison, not allowing another point until the Eagles scored a touchdown with 25 seconds remaining in the game.

Junior linebacker Andon Thomas led the charge with 10 tackles and a sack, while seniors Canyon Schirpik, Luke Huddleston and Bryce Rampy each added five tackles.

Walker added being up against so-called superior sides with more athleticism doesn’t necessarily doom a team to defeat, as his squad proved against Ellison.

“Fundamentals, execution and doing things right does help to a certain extent,” he said. “But, then again, we train year-round, so we get a lot stronger. We want every game to be a tough man contest.”

With the district opener already on Oct. 9 when Crockett visits Panther Stadium, Walker is hoping to find out a lot more about his team against Del Valle – but the most important aspect to him remains the same.

“We want to be challenged and we want to get better,” he said. “I’ve never been a coach to worry about the scoreboard – I’m happy no matter what happens as long as we go out and play hard and play well.”