Struggles continue with loss to Badgers
By Scott Akanewich
Things keep going from bad to worse for the Liberty Hill Panthers these days.
After already exceeding all of last season’s loss total last time out against Freduricksburg, the Purple-and-Gold seemed to take a step backward with a 52-10 road defeat to Lampasas on Friday.
Liberty Hill head coach Jeff Walker remains at a loss as far as why his squad continues to struggle so mightily.
“I feel helpless I haven’t been able to make us successful,” said Walker. “I think at this point our players are playing so tight because they’re afraid to make mistakes.”
As they have all season, the Panthers were once again their own worst enemy, committing costly turnovers and penalties, which the Badgers were plenty able to take advantage of on the natural grass surface of their home field.
Lampasas got the ball first and wasted no time moving the ball on the Liberty Hill defense, mixing the run and pass effectively, culminating with a 47-yard scoring run by junior quarterback Ace Whitehead for a 7-0 advantage with 9:04 left in the opening quarter.
When the Liberty Hill offense got the ball, it looked as if perhaps they could stay with the Badgers, as Trey Seward ran for 21 yards on the Panthers’ first play from scrimmage, but after picking up another first down, junior quarterback Charlie Calabretta dropped back to pass and was intercepted by Lampasas safety Clayton Bever to bring the drive to an abrupt halt.
However, the Panthers’ defense held firm and all the Badgers could muster the rest of the opening period was a 36-yard field goal to make it 10-0 in favor of the home side after one.
With only 1:28 gone in the second quarter, Eric De La Cruz finished off a scoring drive with a 24-yard touchdown run after a 33-yard Blake Simpson gain was aided by an additional 15 yards for a personal foul on Lampasas for a net gain of 48 yards and a 10-7 score.
However, that was as close as the visitors would get for the duration.
Whitehead lofted a majestic arcing pass to wideout Jaylon Porter for a 77-yard scoring strike, then ran one in from a yard out to make it 24-7 with 1:32 left in the half.
But, the Badgers still weren’t done scoring before heading to the locker room, as the Panthers fumbled away the ball on the ensuing possession, allowing Whitehead to once again hook up with one of his targets, this time Michael Murray for a 15-yard score less than a minute after the previous touchdown and it was 31-7 at halftime.
Liberty Hill got the ball to begin the third quarter, but were quickly snuffed out by the Lampasas defense, who stuffed the Panthers’ on a 4th-and-4 run a yard short of a first down and shortly thereafter, Whitehead threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Porter for a 38-7 lead.
Matthew Shipley answered back with a 45-yard field goal to make it 38-10, but that was all the scoring for the Panthers on this night.
Murray caught a nine-yard pass from Whitehead before junior running back Jack Jerome ran in from 34 yards out to provide the final margin.
Whitehead passed for 245 yards on the game, adding another 37 on the ground for the Badgers.
For the visitors, Seward carried 18 times for 124 yards, while Simpson added 109 yards on 19 attempts and De La Cruz picked up 92 yards on 12 carries.
In all, Liberty Hill rushed for 333 yards on the evening, but it still wasn’t nearly enough to match the explosiveness of the Badgers’ balanced offensive assault.
“We’re still not good enough to overcome the kinds of mistakes we continue to make,” said Walker. “We don’t ever make excuses or do any finger-pointing, but I’m worried about the mistakes and we need to fix them.”
So, it’s once again back to the drawing board for Walker.
“I still think we can be better, but it all starts with me,” he said. “So, I’ll go do some soul-searching again because this leaves a really bad taste in our mouths.”
Liberty Hill (2-4, 0-2) will next host Burnet at Panther Stadium on Oct. 25 and Walker is well aware of where his team is in the big picture, he said.
“This is new territory for Liberty Hill football,” said Walker. “But, the community’s been great and I hope they continue to support us.”