The Liberty Hill Panthers this fall will remember its 2007 team that won a state title — it was its second in two years. It’s hard to believe 10 years has passed since Liberty Hill pulled off that remarkable feat.
That said, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Jerry Vance is no longer the coach but former Liberty Hill assistant coach Jerry Walker is now the man in charge of the program and he’ll still have the Panthers run the ball down opposing throats and beat them into submission.
Last year, Liberty Hill posted an 8-4 record and third-place finish in a very tough top-heavy District 13-4A DI that includes 2015 state champ Waco La Vega and last year’s state semifinalist China Spring.
Liberty Hill fell to 5A Port Lavaca Calhoun in non-district before losing to district foes La Vega and China Spring in district.
In the Division I playoffs, Liberty Hill defeated Canyon Lake in the bi-district round and won a 35-33 overtime thriller over Beeville Jones in area. China Spring then downed the Panthers in the regional round.
Liberty Hill averaged 305 rushing yards a game in 2016, and their top running back, Hunter Oncken, returns.
ILB Andy Becker, DE Carter Ware, MLB Cody Burns
Becker led the Panthers with 104 tackles last season. Carter Ware was a first-team all-district defensive player. Burns was second on the team with 88 tackles.
RB Hunter Oncken, RB Reid Sanders, OG J Paul Madison
Oncken averaged 103 yards a game and churned out nine touchdowns en route to first-team all-district honors. Sanders averaged 48 yards a game and had six scores.
The Panthers must replace some key personnel on defense, but Liberty Hill always finds a way to put gobs of points on the scoreboard. Having Oncken back will help continue that effort.
Liberty Hill gets China Spring in a year the Cougars lost a ton of seniors. La Vega will be tough again, and Liberty Hill could have a shot at district this year, especially with a senior-heavy team.
And when the Panthers get to the playoffs, it’s never an easy chore for the opposing team.
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