Panthers run roughshod over Rebels, 63-0

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By SCOTT AKANEWICH

Anyone who arrived at Panther Stadium on Friday night expecting to see a competitive football game when Liberty Hill hosted Travis certainly wasn’t disappointed.

At least for the first 16 seconds of the contest, which was all the time it took senior Carter Hudson to run back the opening kickoff 68 yards for the first points of the evening in a 63-0 Panthers victory over the Rebels.

Liberty Hill head coach Kent Walker was simply happy his side emerged victorious regardless of weak opposition which failed to challenge them for the second straight week following a 62-0 victory over Crockett to open the district schedule.

“We’re 2-0 in district, which is the bottom line,” he said. “Also, we’re as healthy now as we’ve been all year.”

For the second week running, by the end of the game, the Panthers’ varsity backups and JV players who had been called up for the contest were running the show with players such as Ben Carter, David Morris, Tanner Cearley, Justin Lovell and Caynyon Jolly seeing significant action.

In fact, sophomore quarterback Carson Hollen scored Liberty Hill’s final touchdown of the night on a 20-yard keeper around the left side long after the starters had cooled their jets on the sidelines after building a 49-0 halftime advantage.

However, despite the lopsided score at the break, Travis had actually run 38 offensive plays to the Panthers’ 12 due to the short fields the Liberty Hill offense was given to work with time and again after Travis miscues in its own territory – including five one-play scoring drives.

One exception was when the Rebels put together their only sustained drive of the evening in moving the ball from the Panthers’ 43-yard line after recovering a Liberty Hill fumble all the way to the 2 courtesy of a pass interference call in the end zone.

Alas, the visitors would fail to score on four straight plays and fumbled the ball back to the home team on a 4th-and-goal from the 3-yard line on what ended up being their best chance to put points on the board the entire game when it was still only 7-0 with a chance to tie things up.

Following that flub, Panthers junior fullback Logan Dyer took a handoff from senior quarterback Will Szewczyk on the next play and rumbled 94 yards to double the lead.

Following yet another Travis fumble, Joe Pitchford scored from three yards out and it was 21-0 after one period of play.

Noah Long scored on a seven-yard run on moments into the second quarter to make it 28-0 before Drake Torno blocked a punt which was recovered by Joseph Ramon and was immediately followed by Dyer’s second score of the game, this one from four yards out and a 35-0 lead.

But, Torno was just getting started stamping his authority on the proceedings as the senior nose tackle/fullback scored on back-to-back offensive plays on touchdown runs of two and 44 yards in providing his team with a 49-0 halftime lead.

Gavin Salinas scored on a 42-yard run in the third quarter and Hollen scored his six points in the fourth to close out the scoring.

Notable on the final two scores of the night was the varsity debut of sophomore kicker Connor Hawkins, who nailed a pair of extra points after starter Ethan Minix had made his way to the sidelines for the balance of the game.

Walker said getting the young players on the field was paramount due to a scheduling snafu this week.

“Unfortunately, our JV game against Jarrell was canceled this week,” he said. “So, it was good for them to be able to come in tonight and get some playing time.”

Dyer was one of the Panthers’ few starters who saw the field the entire second half, with an 11-yard run in bringing his haul for the night to a team-best 114 yards on four carries and Walker said he along with Torno have now formed a formidable duo in the Panthers’ backfield with each bringing a different dimension for defenses to deal with.

“Those two are kind of like our thunder and lightning,” he said.

Liberty Hill (4-2, 2-0) will next travel to House Park in Austin to face McCallum, who are 1-0 in league play after the Knights’ 20-13 road win over Marble Falls on Friday and Walker is taking nothing for granted moving forward, he said.

“We have a tough test ahead of us,” said Walker, of back-to-back games against McCallum and Marble Falls. “But, we’re excited about this week.”

The Panthers’ wore their all-gold uniforms for the occasion to celebrate homecoming, but even though the color was different, the message to his players before the game was the same, he said.

“Usually, I tell them to be a purple blur,” said Walker. “Tonight, I wanted them to be a gold flash.”

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