MANOR — There was a full bad moon rising over Mustang Stadium in Manor at the start of Friday night’s district playoff game between the Liberty Hill Panthers and the Gonzales Apaches.
Unfortunately for the Apaches, the brilliant full moon was not a good omen as Liberty Hill used a quick-strike, big-play running attack to knock off the Apaches by the final score of 56-28.
Liberty scored eight touchdowns during the game, with most of them being long-range big-play scores of over 30 yards or more. After giving up a first-down to the Apaches on the game’s first possession, Liberty Hill went on to score four touchdowns in the first 13 minutes of the game to take a 28-0 lead while not allowing the Apaches another first down in the quarter. All the Panther touchdowns in the first quarter were over 37 yards in length, including 60-yard and 37-yard yard gallops by Panther running back ironically named Shane Gonzales.
At this point in the game, the Apaches could have folded and gone home, but they did not. To their credit and character, the team picked themselves off the dirt and got on the board with a Seth Gibson five-yard touchdown run at 4:07 of the second quarter. The drive capped a 26-yard drive after the Apaches had recovered a fumble at the 7:12 mark of the second quarter.
“I am really proud of the perseverance and tenacity of our players,” Apache head coach Kodi Crane said. “They kept battling over and over, and that type of perseverance will carry over to the rest of their lives.
“There are no words in the English language I can come up with that clearly says what these seniors meant to our program,” Crane continued. “When we got here they (seniors) were all seventh graders and they really rose to the occasion. Last year’s seniors raised the bar on this program, and this group of kids took that bar and raised it even higher. The sophomores and juniors coming up really have a high bar to match what these kids did.”
Following the Apaches first touchdown of the game, Liberty Hill senior Kyle Harrison exploded for a 55-yard touchdown run at 2:22 of the second quarter to give the Panthers a 35-7 halftime lead.
In the second half, it was an evenly-matched football game, with each team scoring 21 points. The Apaches got on the board first in the third quarter with a touchdown dash by the quarterback at 9:51. Just 10 seconds later, Harrison responded with a 75-yard lightning strike to increase the lead to 42-14. Shane Gonzales then scored his third touchdown of the game on the Panthers’ next drive as he carried the mail for 30 yards to make the score 49-14 at 11:04 of the fourth quarter.
But as Coach Crane said, there was no quit in the men from Gonzales. At 6:50, senior Seth Gibson scored on a one-yard plunge and the score was 49-21. Liberty Hill scored their final touchdown on a long run by junior Nash Robison on their next possession, but Gonzales marched right back down the field.
With :45 seconds left, Gibson scored another touchdown for Gonzales, making it 56-28 at the end.
“That was the first time all year Liberty Hill had to play four solid quarters of football,” Crane said. “That is a real testament to the character of our players and this team. They showed character and tenacity, and that is something we can all be proud of.
“We have been playing football here for over 100 years, and tonight these kids honored the memory of their fathers, their grandfathers and great grandfathers by playing their guts out and never giving up.
“Gosh, I’m proud of these kids.”
With the loss, the Apaches finish the season with a 6-6 record, while Liberty Hill improved to 10-1. The Panthers will play undefeated Sealy this weekend.