By Scott Akanewich
SAN ANTONIO – Perhaps the only drama that unfolded at Farris Stadium in San Antonio on Friday night was whether or not Liberty Hill’s gear would arrive in time to play their Class 5A Division second round playoff game. II vs. Boerne Champion after the truck carrying the Panthers “The equipment had suffered roadside problems on the trip south, which delayed its arrival.
Sadly, all helmets and shoulder pads eventually arrived at their destination unharmed and Liberty Hill continued to outsmart the Chargers by a score of 51-14 despite an abbreviated warm-up precipitated by the equipment delay.
After racking up 519 rushing yards on the evening, the Panthers may want to limit pre-game activity from now on, as three Purple-and-Gold full-backs posted 100-yard games, led by the runner-up. Noah Long, who racked up 196 yards on 20 carries. with a pair of touchdowns.
Liberty Hill head coach Kent Walker, however, said the victory was not as factual as it might have seen for the more than 3,000 people in attendance.
“Oh, no, they’re never as easy as they look,” Walker said. “But our kids played really well tonight and I’m extremely proud of them – they’re a great football team over there at Boerne Champion, so being able to beat them 51-14 says a lot about our kids.”
After Champion won one yard over three games and was forced to kick on opening possession, the Panthers got to work from their own 24 yard line and after Joe Pitchford picked up six yards on the first down Long took a transfer from quarterback Reece Vickers and sprinted 70 yards down the straight sideline for the first points of the game and after an extra point from Ethan Minix it was 7-0 for the Purple-and-Gold.
The Chargers offense didn’t fare much better the second time they got the ball, as champion quarterback Karson Kaiser was off target on a second pass and then was intercepted in the third by Kade McMahan. of the Panthers who climbed high. above the receiver intended to catch the ball at its highest point and secure it before falling to the ground with a back flip to end the game.
After consecutive unsuccessful streaks on either side, Liberty Hill settled into their own 40-yard line and continued to beat the Chargers defense, with Long, Pitchford and full-back Logan Dyer taking turns until That Long scores five yards to put the icing on the cake of an eight-play, 60-yard practice to make it 14-0 with 2:19 left in the first period.
All the while, Liberty Hill’s defense was not deterred by Champion’s offensive on the call of the signal and four wide receivers.
After the Chargers picked up 15 yards in the first play of the series that followed, Kaiser fell back to pass only to be sacked by Panthers senior defensive end Lloyd Johnson, Jr., who also removed the ball from the capture of Kaiser, a fumble who was recovered by Liberty Hill.
Walker said Johnson is back after being held back by a groin injury suffered during the regular season.
“LJ had a very good game,” he said. “I thought he looked faster tonight than he did, so I can’t wait to see how he progresses in the playoffs.”
This time around, it only took the Panthers three games to score turnover when senior Grady Flinn ran one for three yards for a 20-0 lead after a missed extra point.
In the Chargers’ next series, Kaiser was kicked out of the pocket before scooping up three yards, but suffered an apparent ankle injury after being forced out of bounds by Liberty Hill safety Aaron Brewer and is not returned to the game.
However, second-year champion quarterback Jordan Ballin hit senior running back Alex Rodriguez with a six-yard pass to put the Chargers on the board and the score was 20-7 with 8:22 left before the midpoint. -time.
Liberty Hill then embarked on their longest trip of the night, with a 12-play, 61-yard practice resulting in a one-yard Vickers goaltender, which was followed by Minix’s 25-yard goal to give the Panthers a 30 -7 lead at half-time.
Flinn provided the only points for each team in the third quarter, with his second score of the game, a 10-yard run to increase the Panthers’ advantage to 37-7 early in the fourth quarter.
Liberty Hill’s defense remained relentless despite the lopsided scoreline and finished the third period allowing Champion just four combined yards on eight straight three-and-strike games, a detail Walker did not miss.
“Our defense played very well tonight,” he said. “(Senior linebacker) Andon Thomas is all over the field and I think we’ve covered well so I’m excited about our defensive play.”
The Champion’s only big game of the night was when Ballin joined wide Ryan Brandon with a short pass. Dyer and Pitchford scored on 12 and one yard respectively to close the scoring.
In addition to Long’s big night, Pitchford ran for 136 yards and one touchdown on 16 attempts, while Flinn carried 17 times for 133 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Liberty Hill (10-2) will next face Rouse (11-1) – who beat Floresville, 59-19, on Friday – in a rematch of last season’s high-flying Panthers 52-46 victory over the Raiders in the third round. at Gupton Stadium in Cedar Park.
“We are ready and confident,” Thomas said. “Good to go. “
After his team’s second straight 500-yard performance in as many weeks after achieving 520 in a 57-7 first-round victory over Bastrop, Walker praised not only the players who make up the unit, but also coaches who set the games.
“All of our offensive staff did an amazing job,” said Walker. “Overall they did a great job and our kids are playing strong right now – that’s all you can ask them for.”