Freshman leads Panthers win over Livingston, 55-0
Johnny Harris-Hines is hard to see behind the big, tall linemen in front of him.
However, once he burst through the traffic, the Liberty freshman broke into the secondary and tagged the Livingston Lions with four TDs on Friday night to help lead the Panthers to a 55-0 win.
Harris-Hines scored on runs of 27, 43, 12, and 50 yards — his biggest performance of the year.
“I always knew he had the ability to do what he does,” said Liberty head coach Chad Taylor. “But now he has to learn how to block as well.”
Taylor got on to him last week during halftime of the Cleveland game, and in the second half the freshman posted much better stats.
Despite a rain-soaked, muddy field, the Panthers managed to roll out one of their best offensive nights of the year, scoring eight touchdowns.
The Panthers scored on their first possession, burning the clock with a 14-play drive starting from their own 7-yard line and crossing the goal line 93 yards later and with only 1:12 left in the first quarter. They scored on every one of their four drives in the first half of play.
“Our first goal tonight was to re-establish our run game, which we didn’t do a very good job of last week [against Cleveland]. We had some mental and technical breakdowns with our blocking,” he said.
Senior Jeremiah Guillory did a yeoman’s work in the backfield and also picked up a 55-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter to give the Panthers a 27-0 advantage heading into the locker room.
Taylor said they worked on mastering the main plays in their playbook.
“We didn’t deviate too much from our plan. When it’s working, everything becomes more fluid. When the blocking is there, we can put anyone in the backfield to run the ball,” he said.
And that’s exactly what he did.
Defensive back Gio Lopez picked up two touchdowns on the night and senior Luke Evans also scored on a 15-yard TD in the fourth quarter.
That fulfilled the second goal of getting some playing time and experience for some of his players who might find themselves in those roles if the injury bug hits.
For Livingston first year head coach Finis Vanover, it was the third tough loss of the season.
“We’ve had two before this one that were similar,” he said.
“We’ve got to get tough, get physical, and get stronger,” Vanover said.
He was hired in May of this year, so they missed spring practices and are behind schedule.
The Lions suffered nine losses last year and six the year before. Vanover is trying to right the ship.
The former Tomball Memorial head coach said he was amazed at the physicality in which Liberty played.
“They grab us with one hand and throw us five yards. We grab them with one hand and they pull our arm out of socket,” the frustrated coach said. “That’s a big difference.”
“When you’re not real strong, you get boogered up pretty badly,” he said.
He says his team is missing the physicality they need to compete at the same level as teams like Liberty.
“There’s spots that we can see that they’re getting better at but there’s so many flies in the ointment. We’ve just got to stay the course.”
“We’ve got a great freshman and JV team,” he said hopeful of their future.
“Three or four years ago, Liberty was in our same spot and now look at them,” he said. “I’ve been at this for 41 years and we’re not going to fail,” the determined coach said.
He promised to his players following the game that neither he nor the staff were going to quit on them and he expected the same commitment from them.
“We have to break bad habits and learn how to win again,” he said. He promised to create a culture of doing it the right way.
The Panthers, 3-0, and ranked No. 19 in the state Associated Press poll last week, will host Diboll in a non-conference game at 7:30 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium next Friday night.