LIBERTY HILL — It only got harder for Lampasas. 

After upsetting Brownwood in the final minute of last week’s game, the Badgers had to travel to Liberty Hill and face the District 8-3A-leading Panthers Friday night at Panthers Stadium.

Lampasas’ M.O. this year has been to fall behind a few scores before staging furious comebacks — successful or otherwise.

But it was the reverse Friday night — a close 7-6 Panther lead ballooned to 28-6 with 21-unanswered Liberty Hill points in the fourth quarter on the way to a 28-6 victory that all but clinched the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

“Liberty Hill is known for their offense but their defense played brilliant tonight. They kept us pretty bottled up.” said Lampasas head coach Brian Emerson. “They have really good team speed and we weren’t able to get anything going.”

“They controlled the line of scrimmage for most of the game.”

Lampasas (2-7, 1-3 District 8-3A) kept the game close in the first half.

Early in the second quarter, Mateo Guerra booted the ball 37 yards before it was downed and he successfully pinned the Panthers at their own 7-yard line. The Badgers defense did its part by forcing a 3-and-out and a Liberty Hill punt that set up Lampasas at its own 37.

On the first play of the drive, Logan Irvin snapped the ball and immediately sprinted up the gut. He wasn’t touched for another 23 yards, but fumbled the ball when he was hit.

Irvin had three turnovers on the day — two fumbles and an interception.

“Two of those turnovers came late when we were trying to make a play,” Emerson said. “But we can’t expect to win if we lose the turnover battle 3 to 0.”

The Panthers (8-1, 4-0) scooped up the loose ball and scored on its subsequent drive. The Badgers had several opportunities to get off the field and get the ball back in the hands of their offense – they just couldn’t make the big play.

Liberty Hill started the drive with back-to-back penalties that put the Panthers in a second-and-21 hole, but senior running back Bradley Noel took the ball through the left side of the offensive line and sprinted 48 yards to the Lampasas 5-yard line and four plays later Tyler Vickers dove over the goal line to take a 7-0 lead.

It was the only score of the first half. Liberty Hill kicker Lucas Rizzotto pushed his 27-yard field goal attempt to the right of the uprights after the Badgers failed to stop the Panthers on a fourth-and-6 at the Lampasas 34. The first down allowed the Panthers to kill two more minutes off the clock while they drove to the 10 before stalling and missing the field goal.

The Badgers best first-half-drive came on its second possession. Lampasas tallied seven plays for 38 yards and only 87 yards in the first half, but its defense held the Panthers to 133 rushing yards — but its offense couldn’t capitalize on the superb effort.

That is, until the third quarter.

On its second possession of the half, Lampasas drove 71 yards on nine plays but missed the extra point to make the score 7-6 in favor of Liberty Hill. Irvin found Charlie Woods for a 48-yard pass that put the Badgers on the Panthers 22-yard line. Steven Jazdyk scored from 2 yards out.

The usually explosive Jazdyk managed just 80 yards on 19 carries and the score — this after back-to-back 300-yard games.

“Their defense was really aggressive at the point of attack and we weren’t able to push through it,” Emerson said. “We have to keep fighting — that’s our trademark. The playoffs are still our focus.”

Liberty Hill travels to Gatesville next week while the Badgers host Burnet in the season finale.

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