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After what Liberty Hill High head football coach Jeff Walker called a “successful” 2018 season, the Panthers go into 2019 with a tougher than expected road back to AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

Walker told Texas Scorecard that Liberty Hill accomplished so much last year, except for bringing home the Class 4A Division I championship to accompany the school’s 2006 and 2007 titles in the trophy case.

“Successful? Yes,” Walker said. “Did we reach our goals? No. Our expectation is always to win it. Getting there wasn’t our goal. But was it successful for the young men on our team? Yes … we did a lot of pretty special things. I would consider it a successful season. We just didn’t finish it like we [wanted to].”

While the 2018 squad was senior-heavy, the makeup of this year’s group appears more youthful following the departure of 18 starters. Inexperience will be an obstacle for the reigning District 14-4A champions.

“We got a lot of young men now that are going to have to step up and fill some shoes … we’re always hungry and we always want to make it to AT&T [Stadium],” Walker said.

Only five lettermen – two on offense and three on defense – return, according to the coach.

“We’re pretty much starting over,” he said.

Senior quarterback Jacob Cearley is fresh from a debut season on varsity in which he did the most damage with his feet. Cearley, who stands 6 feet 1 inch and weighs 180 pounds, rushed for 737 yards on 88 carries as a junior.

With leading rusher Kyle Harrison gone, junior halfback Blake Simpson will be handed the keys to the running game as the Panthers’ “workhorse,” as Walker described him. A newcomer to the offense is senior Walker Beaty, who switched from defensive end to tight end.

Senior Brady Brewer will man the safety position after playing cornerback for three years. Other defensive standouts include seniors Austin Knox and Hadley Weems, according to Walker.

The coach acknowledged that the 2019 Panthers are the most inexperienced team he has ever coached at the start of any season but he is confident his players will grow with each passing week.

“We’ll get better week to week like we always do,” he said. “We’re a lot better toward the end of the year than we are at the beginning of the year because we have young men that show up every day, work extremely hard, are very coachable and do what we ask them to do. You win a lot of football games with young men like that.”

Liberty Hill will head to Leander the night of Aug. 30 for its season opener against Glenn High. 

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