It’s been an amazing summer – weather-wise.
The Austin/Central Texas area, which suffered through 60-some days last year of 100-degree temperatures, has had one such day this year.
That trend played right into the hands of the Liberty Hill High School football staff which is holding its annual Panthers State Championship Football Camp (July 26-30). The camp, which started Monday morning, runs through Friday and is held from 8:30 a.m. to Noon each day.
The camp is for incoming 7th-, 8th- and 9th-graders for the 2010-11 school year.
“We’ve got around 125 kids showing up, which is tremendous,” said two-time state championship head coach Jerry Vance., the long-time LHHS mentor. “We’ve got even more that registered for the camp. The attendance is great, but what’s even better is that these kids are going hard at it. Their work ethic is great.”
Vance, who recalled that there were 60 middle school football players the year he arrived in Liberty Hill, stated there will be around 180 or so this coming year at that level.
“We’ve got a great showing from the 7th- and 8th-graders in camp,” Vance stated. “Besides the fundamentals, these kids are learning a lot about having confidence in their bodies and its build. I think it’s good for their development – and I’ve found these kids are eager to learn everything we’re teaching them.”
As for the incoming freshmen: “We have 41 out of the 47 or 48 here at camp who have said they want to play football,” Vance said with a big smile. “That’s probably the most we’ve ever had in that category. These kids are hungry; they want to play football.”
And that attitude seems to be prevalent throughout the camp.
“All the kids here at the camp have had a positive attitude,” Vance declared.
Of course, when talking to Vance about football, the subject will inevitably turn to Football in the Fall – and the upcoming season for the Panthers.
“Ahh, I knew the conversation would come around to that,” Vance chuckled. “We’ve had a tremendous off-season and summer. The kids have hit the PAC summer program. I’m pleased with the maturity of the upcoming team and with their attitude.”
For the first time in many years the Panthers are “flying under the radar.” None of the assumed “experts” have the Panthers rated for the upcoming season.
And that’s just fine with Vance, who guided the Panthers to Class 3A state championships in 2006 and 2007.
“I love being overlooked and underrated,” Vance stated. “But that also serves as a motivating factor for this year’s team. Based on what we did last year (the ’09 Panthers finished 4-5 and missed the playoffs), these kids don’t want that to happen this season. People are telling them (teasing them) ‘how fast the program has slipped and how far it has dropped’ and I think they’re getting tired of hearing it.”
Part of this year’s success will once again be based on Vance’s staff of assistant coaches.
“Put in there that I’ve had to baby-sit the assistants more than the kids at this camp,” Vance joked with a hearty laughter. “But seriously, I can’t ever over-state the value of what these assistants do – this program wouldn’t have its tradition of success without them. They’re the ones that make things come together and they’re the ones that do all the hard work.”
Vance concluded, “I hope everyone in this program realizes the value of our assistant coaches. That, combined with the great administration in this district, makes Liberty Hill a wonderful place to be these days.”