AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Liberty Hill Panthers pride themselves on being “Walker Tough.” That slogan refers to longtime Liberty Hill coach Jeff Walker, who died last year after a long battle with cancer.
Inspired by their coach, the Panthers finished the 2020 season with a 12-1 record, going on a run to the 5A semifinals before a 62-61 overtime loss to Crosby.
“Looking back it was pretty crazy,” senior linebacker Andon Thomas said. “But it was also inspirational, we stepped up and played for him and for each other.”
“It definitely made my team bond beyond what we thought was going to happen. [We] became really family and that’s what Liberty Hill really is,” senior safety Kaden McMahan added.
Now another Walker is running the show, Jeff’s brother Kent took over the program late last season. His mission is to keep the tradition of “tough” alive.
“There hasn’t been much processing going on, it pretty much is go to work,” Walker said. “That is something I learned from my brother is just stick to the kids — everything else takes care of itself. You take care of the kids, and everything else takes care of itself, and that’s all we’ve focused on since last year.”
Liberty Hill is led by a new pack of seniors, who look to soar with the same grind it out attack.
“We work on our basics and we do those to the best ability we can and I think it really shows off,” Thomas explained.
“A lot of our younger players know how to grind and they know what to do when they get to Liberty Hill,” McMahan added.
“We try to keep his mentality on the offensive side of the ball and do the things like he would want us to do them and how he did it,” Walker said.
Liberty Hill begins the 2021 season at home against Killeen Ellison Aug. 27 at 7:30 p.m.