CEDAR PARK — Lampasas cemented itself as one of the best teams in school history Saturday afternoon.
More importantly, the Badgers took another step toward becoming the best team in the state.
Class 4A-Division I No. 6 Lampasas crossed the goal line on each of its first five possessions, and the explosive start was too much for Liberty Hill to overcome as the Badgers won 49-34 to capture the Region IV championship at Gupton Stadium.
With the outcome, Lampasas earned a school-record 13th victory and became the first Badger squad since 1986 to advance to the state semifinals.
But the Badgers are not concerned with the accolades.
“It’s exciting,” Lampasas linebacker Case Brister said, “and it makes you feel good about yourself, but we’re not done yet.
“We’ve got to keep this going.”
Badgers head coach Troy Rogers agreed.
“We’re all about taking it one game at a time,” he said. “That is all we’ve been talking about.
“That’s our mentality, and it’s a big deal, because when you’ve had a little success, people want to look ahead. But the players are not buying into that. We’re focused on the game at hand.”
Lampasas (13-1) took immediate control of the contest, needing just three snaps to reach the end zone as Ace Whitehead threw his first of five touchdown passes to Michael Murray Jr. on a 51-yard completion.
Liberty Hill (8-6) responded with a field goal, but the Badgers sandwiched a 37-yard touchdown from Whitehead to Jaylon Porter and a 1-yard run from Whitehead around another Panthers’ field goal to build a 21-6 advantage.
Liberty Hill running back Blake Simpson broke free for a 78-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to eight points, 21-13, in the final seconds of the opening half, but the Panthers would not get any closer.
“We just knew we were going to have to come out and play our game,” Whitehead said. “Obviously, they are a good team, but we felt like we were better if we played our game.
“And that’s what we did.”
Along with his six passing touchdowns, Whitehead completed 21 of 29 passes en route to 401 yards, while Porter hauled in three scores on five receptions for 132 yards, and Murray contributed five catches for 110 yards. Additionally, senior Cameron Everts caught seven passes for 91 yards, and Brenton Webb had four catches for 68 yards and a pair of second-half touchdowns.
“We have great versatility all across the field,” Webb said. “We’ve got playmakers everywhere on defense and offense.
“We’ve got great running backs and a great quarterback who is putting the ball where we can go get it.”
Now, however, to reach the state final, Lampasas must upset the state’s second-ranked team, facing undefeated Carthage (14-0) on Friday at New Caney’s Texan Drive Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
Although it will be a challenge, the Badgers are eager to face it.
“I’m embracing this,” Whitehead said. “I love this matchup. There’s nobody I’d rather be facing, honestly.
“They are a historically good program with a good defense, and I’m excited to compete with them.”
SATURDAY’S HIGH SCHOOL PLAYOFF SUM
LAMPASAS 49, LIBERTY HILL 34
Liberty Hill 13 6 8 7—34
Lampasas 21 14 7 7—49
LAM—Michael Murray Jr. 51 pass from Ace Whitehead (Whitehead kick), 10:29.
LH—FG Mason Shipley 37, 7:48.
LAM—Jaylon Porter 37 pass from Whitehead (Whitehead kick), 5:55.
LH—FG Shipley 39, 3:24.
LAM—Whitehead 1 run (Whitehead kick), 0:28.
LH—Blake Simpson 78 run (Shipley kick), 0:07.
LAM—Porter 59 pass from Whitehead (Whitehead kick), 11:46.
LAM—Porter 23 pass from Whitehead (Whitehead kick), 9:00.
LH—Trey Seward 5 run (run fails), 1:07.
LAM—Brenton Webb 6 pass from Whitehead (Whitehead kick), 8:51.
LH–Seward 2 run (run failed), 0:23.
LAM—Webb 34 pass from Whitehead (Whitehead kick), 6:37.
LH—Simpson 6 run (Shipley kick), 3:25.
First Downs 16 17
Rushes-Yards 58-431 18-57
Passing Yards 0 401
Comp-Att-Int 0-2-1 21-29-1
Punts-Avg. 2-33.0 2-37.5
Return Yards 122 125
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 2-0
Penalties-Yards 6-57 8-65
RUSHING—Liberty Hill, Simpson 26-181, Seward 21-175, John Delacruz 8-56, Nash Robinson 1-17, Jacob Cearley 2-2. Lampasas, Daunte Cuffie 2-26, Jack Jerome 9-20, Whitehead 6-11, Cameron Everts 1-0.
PASSING—Liberty Hill, Cearley 0-2-1-0. Lampasas, Whitehead 21-29-1-401.
RECEIVING—Liberty Hill, None. Lampasas, Everts 7-91, Porter 5-132, Murray 5-110, Webb 4-68.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.