AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s been a tumultuous couple of seasons for the Liberty Hill Panthers, but they have navigated tragedy and intense competition to make their first trip to the state championship since 2018.

Last year, then-Liberty Hill head coach Jeff Walker passed away from cancer during his team’s playoff run.

The Panthers rallied around Jeff Walker’s brother Kent, who took over and led the Panthers to the state semifinals before losing to Crosby.

Kent Walker became the official head coach after the season and the Panthers entered 2021 determined to keep their “Walker Tough” slogan alive.

After a 8-2 regular season, the Panthers defeated Bastrop 57-7, Boerne-Champion 51-14, Leander Rouse 56-33, Alamo Heights 43-40, and Crosby 42-14 to make it to the 5A Division II state championship game.

“It’s extremely special, you know, everything this team has gone through, everything this community has been through over the past year, it’s extremely special for us to get to the state championship game,” Walker said. “We’re not done yet, still one more to go.”

The “one more to go” is a doozy, Liberty Hill will face South Oak Cliff, a team that hasn’t lost since the first week of the season.

“South Oak Cliff is loaded, they are extremely athletic and they are coached very well,” Walker said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us this week, no doubt about it.”

The Division II title game between Liberty Hill and South Oak Cliff at AT&T Stadium will kickoff Saturday at 11 a.m.