Thursday Night Lights for Panthers
By Scott Akanewich
In what will likely be Liberty Hill’s last competitive contest until the playoffs roll around in two months time, the Panthers will host LBJ of Austin in a rare Thursday night game at Panther Stadium in order to appease a live television audience, as the game will be featured on KBVO-TV at 7:30 p.m..
However, despite his team’s Hollywood-like exposure, Liberty Hill head coach Kent Walker and his staff are treating it like business as usual – especially with the district opener against Crockett looming next week.
“I think it’s good for our players,” said Walker. “It’s the first time we’ve ever had a home game televised.”
Aside from the glitz and glamour of the cameras, the Panthers will be hosting a talented Jaguars team which will test Liberty Hill’s mettle coming off last week’s 17-13 road win against Georgetown.
LBJ enters the game with a 3-0 record, including wins over Manor (28-7), Parish Episcopal (44-42) and La Vega (28-7) and are led by junior running back Sedrick Alexander, a 5-foot-10, 195-pound running back whom Walker is well aware of, he said.
“He can pretty much do it all,” said Walker. “Definitely a power runner.”
Senior quarterback Oscar Gordon III threw for 1,077 yards and had 15 touchdown passes last season against only five interceptions and will present an additional challenge for the Panthers’ defense.
“They like to throw the ball all over the field,” said Walker. “LBJ will definitely be the most athletic team we face until the playoffs.”
Liberty Hill’s defense has been staunch this season in allowing only 25 points through the first three games of the season, led by senior linebacker Andon Thomas, who is the Panthers’ leading tackler with 38 stops, including a sparkling 20-tackle performance against Georgetown.
Sophomore Noah Long leads Liberty Hill out of the offensive backfield with 475 yards on 67 carries and six touchdowns on the season, while a committee of Logan Dyer, Gavin Salinas, Joe Pitchford, Devin Riley and Grady Flinn have made up the rest of the Panthers’ ballcarrying contingent.
Coming off a low-scoring loss to Ellison in the opener and a blowout win against Del Valle, Walker was pleased to see his charges come through in the clutch against the Eagles last week.
“Overall, I was impressed with the effort,” he said. “I don’t want to take anything away from our kids, but there’s still room for improvement and we need to get better at blocking and tackling.”