Panthers open playoffs against Glenn
By Scott Akanewich
One perk of moving up to Class 5A for Liberty Hill’s football squad this season was the chance to host a playoff game in the first round and that’s exactly what the Purple-and-Gold will do when they host nearby neighbors Glenn at Panther Stadium on Dec. 11.
Instead of like last season, when the Panthers had to travel 146 miles one-way to Waller for their postseason opener against West Columbia, Liberty Hill will forsake the 300-mile round trip this year for a date in the comfy confines of their own stadium.
The Grizzlies feature a balanced offense, led by senior quarterback Tony Holland, who has completed 71-of-143 passes for 991 yards this season to go with 11 touchdowns and six interceptions, as Glenn has averaged 113.3 yards per game through the air.
Junior running back Joshua Contreras is the Grizzlies’ leading rusher, with 567 yards on 122 carries and five touchdowns, part of an offense which produces 188.1 rushing yards on average.
Senior wideout Jaidyn Simpson is Glenn’s leading receiver, with 23 catches for 375 yards and five touchdowns on the season.
Overall, the Grizzlies finished with a 4-5 record, including a 3-4 mark and a fourth-place finish in District 13, with a signature 28-point home win against Cedar Creek on Nov. 13 by a score of 49-21.
On paper, one would think the Panthers should have no problems in
quickly dispatching Glenn and moving on to face the winner of the Boerne Champion-Edcouch-Elsa game in the second round – especially with the contest at home, but the Panthers must be wary.
Liberty Hill’s defense has been prone to giving up the big play all season, despite the fact they’ve still posted four shutouts and didn’t allow a single point over the course of the entire district schedule.
In fact, the only seven points scored against the Panthers in district was a scoop-and-score by Marble Falls’ defense in the 40-7 away victory on Oct. 30.
Andon Thomas leads Liberty Hill with 80 tackles on the season, with 17 for loss along with five sacks – all team-leading numbers for the junior linebacker, while Aaron Brewer (47), Luke Huddleston (43), Lloyd Johnson (37) and Blake Wilson (34) round out the top five tacklers.
Of course, on offense, it’s all about the running game, as the Panthers’ Slot-T has racked up another dominant campaign, averaging 417.6 yards per game on the ground.
Senior Trey Seward leads the way out of the backfield, with 1,002 yards on 95 carries and 15 touchdowns on the season, with fellow seniors Blake Simpson (88-850-13) and Eric De La Cruz (62-535-9) complete a trio of runners which combine speed and power.
Senior quarterback Charlie Calbretta has thrown four touchdown passes this season and has led the offense with a quarterback rating 139.2.
The game will mark the Panthers’ first contest since former Liberty Hill head coach Jeff Walker passed away from cancer on Dec. 1.