Rushing standouts Shannon, Lindsay, Hernandez prepare for Brownwood

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Jon Shannon (#22) finds daylight up the middle and scores on an 11-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Shannon’s touchdown with 5:31 left in the game proved to be the winner for the Panthers. (Kathy Canady Photo)

Jon Shannon (#22) finds daylight up the middle and scores on an 11-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter against Brenham Sept. 5. Shannon’s touchdown with 5:31 left in the game proved to be the winner for the Panthers. (Kathy Canady Photo)

By BOB VARMETTE

Liberty Hill junior fullback Jon Shannon is probably right. The Brownwood Lions, the Panthers’ non-district opponent this week, are probably not targeting him nor the Panthers’ running game in general.

But they no doubt took notice after Liberty Hill ran for 491 yards and eight touchdowns in the Panthers’ 49-47 win over Class 5A Brenham Friday night.

“I don’t think they will,” Shannon said. “There are three of us, so they’d have to target all of us.”

That would be tough. A three-headed monster?

Perhaps not yet, but the Panthers (1-1) put a pair of running backs over the 100-yard mark in the scorefest against the Cubs (0-2), with Shannon finishing with 177 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 24 carries. Senior tailback Hunter Lindsay added 139 yards and a pair of scores on the ground on just 10 carries.

And senior quarterback Nick Hernandez rushed for another two touchdowns and 96 yards with his eight carries on the night. All in all, while it’s still too early in the season to term the Panthers’ ground game a monster, not a bad night.

“What we do is run the ball,” said Liberty Hill Head Coach Jerry Vance. “We were able to run it. If it’s working, we don’t get away from it. That just doesn’t go with our philosophy.”

So the Panthers ran – a lot. They threw just twice.

They didn’t really have to, even though they were trying to keep up with an equally proficient offense, although the Cubs took a different tack. They took to the air. Brenham senior quarterback Caleb Hill went 12-of-20 for 299 yards and six touchdowns. His favorite receiver, Jaquay Cross, caught 10 balls for 272 yards and caught all six of Hill’s scoring tosses.

Vance said the offensive onslaught unleashed by the two teams made it a fun high school football game. Lindsay said the Panthers never felt anxiety or pressure to answer the Cubs’ scores. They just did.

“Jon, it’s his second game to start,” Vance said. “He’s still new (but) he had a good game. … Jon did real well and it wasn’t just his running. He faked real well.”

Which helped Lindsay and Hernandez in the Panthers’ Slot-T offense, an offense that depends heavily on misdirection. For Lindsay, it was the game he’d been waiting for.

“I haven’t had a game like that at the varsity level,” he said. “It’s my first standout game. It’s not really different for me individually. Everybody was doing their job and it felt good that all of the hard work is paying off.”

Liberty Hill running backs are expected to be expert at carrying out their fakes. A good fake, Vance said, is as good as a good block, and Lindsay also helped out his fellow runners in that department, as well as having several good runs.

It all works together, Vance added. But it all starts up front.

The Panthers’ big rushing night started with the big guys on the line. It’s an experienced offensive line, but it’s a unit that’s also dealing with its share of injuries.

The Liberty Hill line showed something against Brenham that was absent in the 24-7 season-opening loss to La Grange – consistency.

“I’m a lot happier with what we saw than with the week before last,” Vance said. “We expect them to be the leaders of our offense, to make the holes.”

Lindsay gave out high grades to the Panthers’ offensive line, calling it a game where the line play was “close to perfect.” With all the parts meshing, it made for a fun night.

“It felt good, I was really happy with how I ran the ball,” Shannon said. “We all executed real well, we all gave 100 percent and we moved the ball well. I hit the holes very hard, but I still have a lot of room to improve.”

Never totally happy, Vance said, yes, it can get better. But this was a big step forward for the Panthers offense.

“We know what our potential is now,” Lindsay said. “When we execute, we know what we’re capable of.”

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