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After two-year absence, Panthers return for Tiger Homecoming

Zack Leger is the latest in a long line of outstanding Liberty Hill running backs. Leger leads the 2-1 Panthers with just under 300 yards of rushing and is averaging six yards per carry. Thunderstruck photos Zack Leger is the latest in a long line of outstanding Liberty Hill running backs. Leger leads the 2-1 Panthers with just under 300 yards of rushing and is averaging six yards per carry. Thunderstruck photos The last time we saw Liberty Hill, the Panthers were making room in their trophy case for a second straight state championship hardware.

Since then, Liberty Hill (4-5 last season) has fallen on hard times and opponents that got stampeded by the Panthers in the past have been getting their licks in on the once unstoppable team.

Rockdale would love to join that list of revenge seekers.

“Coach (Jerry) Vance knew t hey would have a couple of years that they would be down,” said Rockdale Coach Jeff Miller. “The system is the same. It’s hard to tell how good they really are.”

The 2-1 Panthers had their way with No. 4 Cuero, but are coming off a 23-20 loss to China Spring on Friday in which they led late in the fourth quarter.

LIBERTY HILL AT ROCKDALE What: Rockdale Tigers (2-1) vs. Liberty Hill Panthers (2-1) Where: Tiger Stadium (2,850 capacity). Natural grass. When: Friday, 7:30 p.m. Favorite: Liberty Hill by 4. Last week: Rockdale lost to Cameron 35-13; Liberty Hill lost to China Spring 23-20. Series record: Liberty Hill leads 2-0. District outlook: Liberty Hill is picked third in District 25- 3A (Burnet, Lampasas, Llano, Taylor, Salado). Panther to watch: No. 27, RB Zach Leger. LIBERTY HILL AT ROCKDALE What: Rockdale Tigers (2-1) vs. Liberty Hill Panthers (2-1) Where: Tiger Stadium (2,850 capacity). Natural grass. When: Friday, 7:30 p.m. Favorite: Liberty Hill by 4. Last week: Rockdale lost to Cameron 35-13; Liberty Hill lost to China Spring 23-20. Series record: Liberty Hill leads 2-0. District outlook: Liberty Hill is picked third in District 25- 3A (Burnet, Lampasas, Llano, Taylor, Salado). Panther to watch: No. 27, RB Zach Leger. Liberty Hill began the season with a dose of adversity.

The Panthers had to replace running back Ryan Fickel (810 yards, 5 TDS), who decided not to play football this year after earning all-district honors in each of the past two seasons.

But as usual, that is not as big a problem as it would be for most teams. Liberty Hill has always been a “running back by committee” proposition.

“We’ve never had stars, we’ve never had one feature back, and that’s part of our program,” head coach Jerry Vance told the American Statesman.

Vance has senior Zach Leger and juniors Jonathon Johnston and Brandon Corn in his corral and they have all reached the 100-yard marker this season.

Cody Turner hasn’t quite made it yet, but he did cross the goal line twice against Cuero .

Leger leads the pack with 284 yards.

Last year’s losing record was the program’s first since 2000.

“They don’t want to repeat last season at all,” Vance said.

From 2002 to 2008, Liberty Hill established itself as one of the elite programs in Texas, winning 84 games and two state championships.

Before losing in the Class 3A, Division II semifinals in 2008, Liberty Hill had won 38 straight games, the state’s eighth-longest winning streak.

When they occupied the same district from 2006 and 2007, Liberty Hill ran roughshod over the Tigers, winning by a combined score of 93-45 and rolling up 1,112 yards on the ground.

Miller and the Tigers are more than a little familiar with the Slot-T offense which Liberty Hill has turned into an art form.

“We’ve talked about it so many times,” he said. “You don’t outathlete them, you out-scheme them. You’ve just got to get a lot of help from everyone to try and contain them. You’ve really got to hold your ground.”

“I love playing under the radar,” Vance said with tongue firmly planted in cheek. “The polls are for the media and for everybody to write about because you have to go out there every week and prove yourself every week no matter what the polls say.”

TIGER TRACKS

• The Rockdale Tiger Booster Club is selling “District 23-3A Endangered Species” blue shirts for $15. The front has the attached crest on the left chest and the back has the endangered species list (also attached). These are for all sports and will be good for the next two years. Available in sizes youth small to adult 3XL. The shirts are here so just send your payment and we’ll send you the shirts. Make checks payable to RTBC (Rockdale Tiger Booster Club). District starts for volleyball on Sept. 24 vs. Caldwell and for football on Oct. 8 vs. Navasota. Contact Angel Miller (angelemiller@yahoo.com) at 446-7645 or Denise Betchan (dbetchan@rockdaleisd.net) and get your shirts.

• Rockdale’s worst injury came after the game when Desmond Davis slipped and hit his head on the slick floor inside the Cameron gymnasium as the Tigers were heading to their dressing room. Paramedics were called and had to cut his jersey off him and take him to the emergency room. Davis will miss at least the next two weeks with a concussion.

• Senior safety Casey Burrough and freshman linebacker James David led the Tigers in tackling against Cameron with five each. Markus Hayes tops the Tiger tackle list for the season with 23. • Former Texas A&M great and Dallas Cowboy Dat Nguyen was in attendance at the Battle of the Bell. Nguyen was there to check out Tiger linebacker Derek David who had an off night and registered just three tackles against the Yoemen. David has already committed to Texas Tech,

• Former Tiger All-State performer Logan David is redshirting this season at Blinn. David has also committed to Texas Tech.

• Speaking of former All-State players, Austin January (RHS 2006) made three tackles, including two for losses in Abilene Christian’s win over Northeastern St.

• It was a rough week for District 23-3A as member teams went 1-5, with Caldwell logging the lone victory, over Madisonville. Giddings (1-2) lost for the second straight week after quarterback Spencer Fitzhenry could not convert a twopoint conversion after his touchdown with 1:18 left in the game. LaGrange lost to Columbus in a 51-41 shootout. Navasota was shocked by Bryan Rudder 17-0. The Rangers are 3-0 on the season after winning a total of two games in its first two years of existence.

• The Tigers feature the second best defense in the league, allowing 185 yards per game to Caldwell’s 160. The Tigers do lead the district in fumbles with 10.

• Daniel Brooks (661) leads the district in rushing by almost 200 yards over Caldwell’s Kedrin Sheppard (468). The two switch places when it comes to scoring with Sheppard’s nine scores to Brooks’ eight.

• Miller has moved up two players from the junior varsity, sophomore fullback/linebacker Oscar Sauceda and junior linebacker Cha Cha Estrada.


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