Panthers hosting Travis for Homecoming
By Scott Akanewich
It’s difficult to imagine Liberty Hill having a more one-sided game than last week’s 62-0 thrashing of Crockett in the district opener.
However, when Travis comes calling on the Purple-and-Gold this week, it could prove to be an even more lopsided result for the home side.
The Rebels have played only two games thus far this season due to injuries and illness and suffered a 42-8 setback at the hands of Marble Falls last week in their league opener – this after having lost to Jarrell by a 70-0 score in their only other contest.
Liberty Hill won the reverse fixture last season, 86-0, at Burger Stadium and prospects for the visitors don’t look any better this time around.
Panthers head coach Kent Walker, though, is – as usual, more concerned with what his squad will do under the lights than the opposition.
“We’re treating this game as we’ve always done,” he said. “So, we keep practicing with a purpose.”
Noah Long leads Liberty Hill with 685 yards rushing on 93 carries and nine touchdowns this season in averaging 137 yards per game, while junior fullback Logan Dyer is second with 259 yards on 48 attempts and senior Grady Flinn is third with 208 yards on 21 carries.
Interestingly, the Panthers have only completed a pair of passes this season – both to junior Gavin Salinas for touchdowns – but neither was thrown by starting quarterback Will Szewczyk, as Joe Pitchford and Reese Vickers have done the honors.
On defense, senior linebacker Andon Thomas continues to lead the way, with a squad-best 65 stops on the season, including 11 tackles in the win over Crockett.
Hollis Brady kept up his strong play on the defensive line, adding a sack against the Cougars, along with Wyatt Sprinkle and Carlos Garth, who also bagged one apiece, while senior Drake Torno leads the team with four sacks on the season.
Against Crockett, many of the Panthers’ starters saw much of the second half from the sidelines as the score got increasingly out of hand, with even a handful of junior varsity players seeing action in the fourth quarter after being called up to the varsity for that very purpose.
Even so, Walker said he never goes into a game with any kind of preconceived plan of how he will handle player rotation in the event of a blowout.
“I wait until I can get a feel for what’s happening on the field,” he said. “Then, I’ll realize we don’t need this guy or that guy in the game anymore.”
Walker said regardless of the level of competition across the line of scrimmage, there are still ways he can gauge his team to determine if they’re at peak performance.
“I look at the speed at which we’re playing,” he said. “Things like if we’re holding our blocks longer or reading and reacting to the play faster and not making all the little mistakes.”