LIBERTY HILL, Texas (KXAN) — After a heartbreaking 23-14 loss to South Oak Cliff in the Class 5A Division 2 title game last year, the Liberty Hill Panthers plan to reload its bulldozing rushing attack and make another deep playoff run.
In a new district that features two teams from San Antonio, along with Lockhart, Bastrop, Cedar Creek and Kerrville Tivy, the Panthers’ rugged slot-T offense will no doubt be their calling card once again as they try for another perfect district record.
That state title loss is still burning inside some of the players, especially senior offensive lineman Hudson Stillwell.
“We grind twice as hard as we did last year so we can get back to where we were,” he said. “I’ve never seen a team more motivated than this one. We want to make it back and we want to win.”
Stillwell and the rest of the offensive line helped the Panthers rush for 8.2 yards per carry last season, piling up more than 5,900 yards and an eye-popping 84 touchdowns. The three leading rushers from last year’s squad are back — Noah Long, Joe Pitchford and Logan Dyer — so it’s almost a foregone conclusion that the Panthers are going to light up the scoreboard.
While they’ll have to replace some key players on defense, Panthers head coach Kent Walker has all the confidence in his players because of the work they put in during the offseason.
“The work they’ve put in the weight room since January kind of gives us that confidence, and the kids believe in themselves and each other,” Walker said. “We’ve got a great group of seniors coming back.”
The Panthers open the season at home August 26 against San Antonio Wagner. The Thunderbirds, a Class 6A team last year, are dropping down to Class 5A Division 1 and are in District 12 with the Hays Hawks and other San Antonio-area schools. Wagner went 4-6 last season.
Liberty Hill enters the season with a No. 3 ranking in Class 5A Division 2, according to the Dave Campbell’s Texas Football and Associated Press preseason poll. Defending champ South Oak Cliff starts the season at No. 1.