Panthers linemen qualify for state event

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By Scott Akanewich

In order for any offensive line to function properly, all five members must work in unison like a well-oiled machine and for the Panthers and their Slot-T offense, it’s perhaps even more critical due to the nature of the offense’s complexity.

All that being said, with five fresh starters along the Purple-and-Gold front this upcoming season, it’s never too early to begin the process of developing the kind of cohesion that will be necessary to allow the Liberty Hill offense to roll up the amounts of yardage it’s accustomed to.

So, the fact the Panthers’ blockers will compete at the Lineman Challenge state championships at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene after a third-place finish at the qualifying event in Burnet is definitely a good sign.

Chance Pogue is one of the incoming seniors on next season’s squad who will be asked to carry his share of the load in clearing the way for Panthers ballcarriers. He said the chance to compete alongside his brothers-in-arms against live competition for the first time was an experience to enjoy.

“It was really intense,” said Pogue, who mans the quick guard position on the Liberty Hill line. “I had never gotten to do something like this before.”

The competition consists of several events that test speed, endurance and of course, strength, such as flipping and throwing tractor tires, dumbbell relay races, bench press and tug-of-war, among others.

In stark contrast to flashy 7-on-7 competitions that showcase skill players, the lineman challenge shines the spotlight squarely on the foot soldiers in the trenches who open up running alleys and passing lanes – in other words, the ones who make it all possible.

Usually, battles such as these are won by sheer size and brute strength, with combatants on both sides of the line of scrimmage weighing in at up to 300 pounds or more.

However, the Panthers consistently feature relative lightweights in this department, relying instead on a combination of superior speed, guile and work ethic – a fact embraced by Pogue.

“People see a 180-pound guard like me and don’t think much,” said Pogue. “We might not be as big, but we’re faster and stronger.”

Despite the reputation that proceeds them, though, Kasyn Herman, who will also be a senior next season, believes he and his teammates are always underestimated by their opponents at the outset of an engagement – whether it be a game or a competition such as the Lineman Challenge.

“People come out and play us and can’t handle our speed,” said Herman. “Also, we can do it for all four quarters.”

Pogue said his favorite event of the lot is the bench press.

“Yeah, that’s what I’m best at,” he said. “It’s a really good endurance test.”

In fact, Pogue recalled how at the event in Burnet as he was getting ready for his turn on the bench, there were several opponents who were acting as if they were going to dominate.

Not so fast, he said.

“There were some guys who were getting all hyped going in – guys twice our size,” said Pogue. “But, then I went in and did 26 repetitions of 185 pounds.”

As far as having the opportunity to better get to know those he will be taking the field on Friday nights with, Pogue said it’s reassuring to become familiar with them in advance.

“It’s really important – a team is a team for a reason,” he said. “I want to know what my team is all about and know the guys next to me can do their jobs to the best of their ability.”

Herman agreed.

“When we run plays, I know where the other guys are going to be,” he said. “Chemistry is what’s important.”

Liberty Hill head coach Kent Walker likes the fact his linemen are getting their fair share of attention.

“All those guys do a lot of work,” he said. “But, don’t always get the recognition they deserve,”

Walker also buys into the camaraderie aspect of it all.

“It’s great for them to be working together and competing,” said Walker. “Anytime you can do that, you have to take advantage.”

Herman said he and his teammates are ready for the challenge that lies ahead.

“We’re going to state hungry,” he said. “We want to show everyone what we’re all about.”

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