Panthers crush Crockett, 76-0
By SCOTT AKANEWICH
Nice, tidy little evening at the office for Trey Seward on Friday night at Panther Stadium.
In addition to rushing for 136 yards on six carries and scoring three touchdowns, the Liberty Hill senior halfback was also named homecoming king at halftime before helping his teammates demolish Crockett by a score of 76-0.
If there was ever any doubt about the outcome of the contest, it might’ve been in the few moments after the visitors from Austin stepped off their bus upon arrival, but that was about it, as the Panthers thoroughly outclassed the Cougars from the outset.
“Like most of us coaches, I hate games like this,” said Liberty Hill head coach Jeff Walker. “You never want to win like this and we’re not in the business of embarrassing anybody out here. For a coach who cares about kids, you just want to go over to the other team, give them a hug and tell them everything’s going to be okay.”
For one to have an idea of how one-sided this affair was, consider a few numbers.
Liberty Hill ran six offensive plays the entire first quarter, yet still led, 34-0 after the opening period of play and Crockett picked up only one first down the entire game.
After the Panthers’ defense had forced a three-and-out on the game’s opening possession, a bad snap on the punt attempt allowed senior defensive lineman Blake Wilson to recover the ball on the Crockett 2-yard line, where Seward scored his first six points of the night seconds later to all but decide the game all of 39 seconds into the contest.
Harsh? Not considering only 1:53 elapsed off the clock before Seward again found pay dirt in the form of a 19-yard run and a 13-0 lead.
But, only 29 seconds after that on the Cougars’ first play from scrimmage on the ensuing possession, senior defensive back Preston Shephard stepped in front of a Crockett pass and returned it 19 yards for another score and it was 20-0.
Crockett quarterback Michael Newton again tried his luck from the pocket on the Cougars’ next offensive play and was once again intercepted, this time by Carter Hudson, who returned the ball inside the Crockett red zone, only for it to be called back due to a Panthers’ personal foul on the return, which pushed the Purple-and-Gold all the way back to their own 38.
No worries, though. Blake Simpson banged for eight yards on first down, then took it the distance for a 30-yard scoring run on second down, only for it to be called back after a holding penalty was assessed on the offense.
Again, no problem.
On the following play, senior quarterback Charlie Calabretta found wideout Andrew Hunter wide open for a 32-yard touchdown pass and a 27-0 advantage.
Following another feeble three-and-out by the Cougars, it was senior fullback Eric De La Cruz’s turn to get on the score sheet, with a powerful 50-yard run during which he muscled his way through the Crockett line before outracing the Cougars’ secondary to the end zone once he broke into the clear on the way to 34-0 at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, after Simpson had run his second score of the night in from 11 yards out, Calabretta once again dropped back and lofted a ball which was slightly overthrown to the left corner of the end zone, which Seward caught up to, then laid out and made a fully-extended catch for a 22-yard scoring strike.
Calabretta already has four touchdown passes in the first three games of the current campaign and considering the Panthers as a team only connected through the air twice all last season, is this something we might see more of as the year unfolds?
“We know Charlie can throw it and we know we have kids who can catch it,” said Walker.
Crockett mustered its only first down of the entire game with under a minute to play in the first half on its own 12-yard line, only for even that brief bright spot to go horribly wrong on the next play when Lloyd Johnson sacked Newton, who fumbled the ball only for it to be scooped up by linebacker Andon Thomas and returned 10 yards for yet another Liberty Hill touchdown and a 54-0 lead at halftime.
Perhaps the most dramatic moment of the entire night was at halftime when Seward was named homecoming king while remaining on the field for the ceremonies.
After the ball kicked off for the second half, it was more of the same.
Texas doesn’t have a “mercy rule” on the books, but if both sides agree, the clock can be run once a game gets out of hand – which this certainly was.
As a result, the Panthers were only able to score three more touchdowns – a 32-yard run by Simpson and a pair of rushing touchdowns by freshman Noah Long of 16 and 17 yards, which were the first of his varsity high-school career over the course of the third and fourth quarters, which provided the final margin.
Liberty Hill junior kicker Ethan Minix was one of the busiest players on the field, hitting 6-of-7 point-after-touchdowns on the evening.
As for Walker, he said neither he nor his team really got anything out of the game, save a few items.
“Well, it’s a win, first of all,” he said. “We were also able to get all of our seniors in, which was a big thing for us – all these young men show up and work every day, so they deserve to play.”
Which means after backup quarterback Will Szewczyk had gotten some reps after Calabretta’s work for the night was done, senior signal-caller Jaret Martinez got in the game, among others.
The biggest splash was made by junior Devin Riley, who broke off a 70-yard run down the left sideline late in the proceedings, as the Panthers rushed for 386 yards on the game, along with 54 yards passing.
Due to the nature of the game, the Panthers only ran 22 offensive plays on the night, which only provided Walker a sample of how much his players had improved from the sloppiness of the season’s first two games, but he liked what he was able to see, he said.
“Yeah, it was hard to tell,” said Walker. “But, I think they showed more fight this week.”
After fumbling four times in each of the season’s first two games, the Panthers fumbled only once against Crockett.
One thing he remains worried about is his squad’s fitness level.
“We had our twos and threes in there a lot tonight,” he said. “So, I might have them run during practice because their conditioning concerns me.”
So, all in all, not exactly a perfect night at Panther Stadium for Walker and his team despite the perfect score on the board, as he knows not every week will be so easy.
“We have some teams like McCallum and Marble Falls who could give us a run,” he said. “We’re not going to run over everyone.”
Liberty Hill (3-0, 1-0) will next play Travis at Burger Stadium in Austin in a rare Thursday night contest on Oct. 15 at 7:30 p.m.