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Volume 33, Issue 7

January 9, 2020 | 50 Cents

Tax lien casts cloud over Mayor Hall

By MIKE EDDLEMAN Managing Editor According to records f r o m the Williamson County C l e r k ’s O f f i c e , RICK HALL LiberMayor ty Hill Mayor Rick Hall’s home was listed on the January 2020 Notice of Foreclosures in the county. In addition to the foreclosure notice, which had a creation date of Nov. 26, 2019,

further research indicated an IRS tax lien in the amount of $67,240.23. The tax lien date is July 16, 2019, and the tax period date is listed as Dec. 31, 2015-Dec. 31, 2016. The Independent requested a telephone interview with Hall to clarify the information, and while he indicated Wednesday morning he would discuss the matter in an interview, he instead responded hours later to questions with an e-mailed statement. Hall said he was in a meeting throughout the day Wednesday. In his statement, Hall

By MIKE EDDLEMAN Managing Editor The second half of the current school year has barely begun, but Liberty Hill ISD leaders have one eye already on next year’s classes. With months of work already behind the district in its preparation for class offerings for the 2020-2021 school year, it is time for parents and students to meet with school officials to make schedule decisions for next year. Parent meetings begin Jan. 15 with current high school juniors meeting at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. that day in the Performing Arts Center. “The beauty of this is that we’re not only educating our students, but also our parents so the conversations can happen with students and parents before course sheets are due,” said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Toni Hicks. “They have a whole month where parents and students can talk through course selection and then the course sheets are due

in March.” Current ninth and 10th graders will meet Jan. 22, also at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center, and eighth grade students will meet Feb. 19 at the same times and location. “The challenge is we have a limited number of counselors and we are wanting to make sure our counselors at the high school are visiting with all the grades at the high school, but also visiting with eighth graders to make sure they are well-informed in making those choices before they enter freshman year,” Hicks said. Making sure current eighth grade students have all the information makes the transition to high school smoother and gives them more opportunity later to change their mind if needed. “Let’s say you take Principles of Engineering then decide its not where you are headed and you want to

See HALL, Page A6

Students, parents look to next year

See COURSES, Page A6

Organizers planning first County Fair

By ANTHONY FLORES Staff Writer As 2020 begins, the calendar has a new event on the radar as Williamson County is in the early stages of planning for its first county fair. The County is aiming to create an event that best represents the large agricultural communities that comprise it. There are currently several agriculture-focused events throughout the year but no one has put them all together under one banner until now. “We have a couple of really good rodeos, and a livestock show, but the County has never had a true county fair,” said Scott Heselmeyer, president of the Williamson County Fair Association. “I mean in the sense of a big public event where you can come and not only see a rodeo but also go to the carnival and have other experiences.” A lack of a location to call home has played a large part in ©2020 The Liberty Hill Independent

why the area has never hosted a fair, but with improvements to the Expo Center in Taylor, the opportunity for a large-scale county event is more feasible than ever before. “We haven’t had a facility suited for a large event,” said Heselmeyer. “The County made some great improvements to the Expo Center in the last few years. The last element which allows us to do what we’re going to do is the construction that’s going on now to add another barn facility, concessions stand facility and more restrooms.” With the approval and backing of the Williamson County Commissioners Court, $100,000 will be provided by the County, as what Heselmeyer refers to as seed money covering around half of the first year’s budget. He believes the fair will more than cover its costs. “We’re going to do advertising, fundraising, partnerships and of course there will be revenue from ticket sales,” said Heselmeyer.

See FAIR, Page A2

The interpretive center at River Ranch Park is being funded with a $750,000 Texas Parks and Wildlife Grant and will include exhibit, classroom and office space. (Courtesy Graphic)

County begins work on River Ranch Park Interpretive Center

By MIKE EDDLEMAN Managing Editor Williamson County took shovels in hand as officials celebrated one more big step toward the opening of River Ranch Park south of Liberty Hill. The nearly 1,400-acre park is slated to open sometime this summer, and construction has begun on the interpretive center, set to be a key feature of one of the County’s most natural parks. “The closest thing we have to this in our system now is the Berry Springs Park and Preserve, but even still this will be unique to the complement of parks the county offers,” said County Parks Director Russell Fishbeck. “The interpretive center is going to be sort of that nexus to bring people to experience the park before they experience the park. It will be a place to go to learn about the resources on the ground at River Ranch, the river itself, the savannah, the woodland, just the overall natural and cultural experiences you can have at River Ranch. For somebody

who may be new to this area or maybe to outdoor experiences it is a good first stop.” The budget for River Ranch got a boost when the County received a $750,000 grant from Texas Parks and Wildlife to fund the center. The interpretive center will include exhibit, classroom and office space, as well as outdoor space. “The footprint hasn’t changed as far as location or size of the structure,” Fishbeck said. “We’re still looking at the 4,836-square-foot facility that includes both the exhibition space and outdoor porch.” Because the County planned River Ranch as primarily a natural park, the interpretive center creates a good educational opportunity for visitors. “Additionally, it will be a great educational opportunity for us for your regular users as well as our opportunity to bring local school students out there and educate those kids on those cultural and natural resources right here in their backyard,” Fishbeck said. “I think it will be an important

Pct. 2 County Commissioner Cynthia Long speaks at the groundbreaking for the 4,836-square-foot interpretive center slated to be a key feature of River Ranch Park. (Courtesy Photo) opportunity for people to get a glimpse of what is out there on that 1,400 acres.” Exhibits on display in the center are not set, but could include area ranching history, information on the river, or geology of the area as possibilities. “In the parks business, the interpretation is a whole separate

element of the experience,” said former County Parks Director Randy Bell. “The easiest way is to describe it is, if I had a school bus load of kids for 30 minutes, what would I want them to leave knowing about this park?”

See RIVER, Page A6


Perky Beans serves up drinks, food, friendship

By RACHEL MADISON Staff Writer When you step into Perky Beans Coffee for the first time, don’t expect to be a stranger for long. You will quickly be greeted by at least one barista, and if you decide to stay a while to work or catch up with friends, the staff will be sure to keep your coffee hot and your belly full. That’s just one way Perky Beans differs from other shops, said Ron Diaz, who co-owns the recently opened shop in North Leander with his wife, Angie. “We want people to come enjoy a better experience than at a regular coffee shop,” he said. “We bring your coffee and your food to you, because we hated that in other places people had to wait around by the counter. It’s a more personal experience. We ask people their names even in the drive thru.” Although Perky Beans is brand new to Texas, it’s been around for a handful of years. Perky Beans started seven years ago in San Diego with a RACHEL MADISON PHOTO coffee truck. “We had a food truck prior Angie and Ron Diaz are the husband and wife team behind recently opened Perky Beans Coffee in North Leander. The couple started their business in San Diego and decided to expand to Texas See PERKY, Page A5 when they moved here in 2019.

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Thursday, January 9, 2020

Shin Oak Ridge Bulletin Board Send news to:

Public Meetings

The following are standing open meetings that are subject to change within the guidelines set forth by the Texas Open Meetings Act. For the most current meeting postings, and meeting agendas, visit the respective websites. - Liberty Hill City Council, 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 13 and 27, at City Council Chamber, 2801 RR 1869. - Liberty Hill ISD Board of Trustees, 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 21, 2020, at LHISD Administration Bldg., 301 Forrest Street.

program will be “How to Prepare for Spring Plantings” by Chuck Sokek, a member of the Red Barn Garden Center team in Leander. Social time starts at 9:30 a.m. and the meeting starts at 10 a.m. The meeting is held at the Life Springs Church, 15611 W. State Hwy. 29.

Judge Greenleaf Fisk Chapter of DRT meets Jan. 11

The Judge Greenleaf Fisk Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas invites those who are interested in the history of the Republic, to hear Cheryl Smith New, on Jan. 11, at 10 a.m. Liberty Hill Garden Saturday, at the Cross Tracks Methodist Club meets Jan. 14 Church, 101 Church Street, The Jan. 14th garden club Liberty Hill 78642.

New will be presenting a review of THE BOY CAPTIVES, which is the story of two brothers known to survive Indian captivity. They are ancestors of New. The boys were captured on their ranch near Boerne at the ages of 9 and 11 and lived with the Indians between 5 and 6 years. They were separated from each other to lessen the chances of escape, and were later returned to their family because of the dedicated and relentless pursuit of their father, a Sheriff in San Antonio and a Texas Ranger. One of the boys later wrote the story of their captivity. It provides insight into Indian ways, their travels and Indian raids. Membership in the Daughters of the Republic of Texas

is open to any woman of lineal descent from an ancestor who lived in Texas during the period of the Republic (1836-46). Associate memberships are also available for those who are interested in Texas history and the work of the Daughters. Associate memberships are $25 per year. For more information, please contact chapter registrar Joyce Parsons at 512-423-3757 or email her at jnparsons1114@ You may also contact president, Mariann Laughlin at truetexaswomen@gmail. com.

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United Way Day of Service is Jan. 20

By ANTHONY FLORES “We reach out to all of our Staff Writer partner organizations who The United Way of William- we fund, school districts and son County is looking for nonprofit agencies and we members of the community to host different projects in difcome together for its annual ferent areas throughout the Day of Service. community,” said Foy. “We The Jan. 20 event takes plac- have about 240 spots and 18 es every year on Martin Luther projects open right now to the King Jr. Day as a way to honor public.” Dr. King’s legacy of fighting All ages are encouraged to get for social justice. involved in volunteering with “We have several annual vol- different projects having difunteer days, and MLK Day ferent minimum age dependof Service is to respect Mar- ing on the activity. tin Luther King and what he “It tailors towards the need did,” said Nicole Foy, director of the volunteer so you can of impact and engagement for register as an individual or a the United Way of Williamson group and it’s all ages, differCounty. “So, it’s a national hol- ent volunteer activities have iday and the United Way is just different minimum age,” said one of a handful of other orga- Foy. “Once you register you nizations that hold it.” can look at all of the separate Cities in Williamson County projects and descriptions and takes part in the Day of Service what they entail so you can as well as many of the schools pick the project that best suits across the county. The United your needs.” Way works with school districts and nonprofit groups to create volunteer projects that Filing period opens Jan. 15 local members of the commuin Liberty Hill city and school nity can participate in. elections. Three positions on the Liberty Hill City Council and a pair of places on the Liberty Hill ISD Board of Trustees are up for grabs on the May 2 ballot. The filing deadline is 5 p.m., Feb. 14, 2020. Council Places 3 and 1 – currently held by Kathy Canady and Tony DeYoung, respectively – will be on the ballot, as

According to Foy, projects community members can participate in “vary from painting schools to gardening to painting flowerbeds to helping write thank you letters to donors. You can make cat toys for the shelters, helping us with our pledge forms and separating for the different school districts, hard labor and cleaning up parks and pulling weeds. It varies from absolutely everything.” In her time with the United Way, Foy has noticed that of the available projects each year, the ones taking place in larger parks around the area are most popular. “It’s the larger parks. Barry Springs parks and preserve is one that always volunteers with us, Spirit Reins in Liberty Hill also,” said Foy. “People usually like manual labor when it comes to volunteer-

ing.” She believes it’s important for people to participate because it creates an awareness of the charitable work being done in local communities, work that often goes overlooked by people. “It creates some awareness and encourages community members and people to get together,” said Foy “To not only promote volunteerism and giving back to the community, but they actually get to go out and go to these nonprofits and agencies in the community and actually see what they are doing. A lot of people don’t know what’s going on.” To volunteer or get more information on the Day of Service, visit the United Way of Williamson County website at

well as the Mayor’s position, held by Rick Hall. Canady and DeYoung were both appointed in 2019 to finish unexpired terms. The three positions on the Council will be the first to receive compensation as discussed and voted on by the Council. The Council members will each receive $12,000 annually, while the Mayor will receive a $40,000 annual salary.

This month, the Council is expected to approve a ballot measure for the May election asking voters to extend terms in office from two years to three. The two positions on the school board are for Place 1 – currently filled by Clint Stephenson – and Place 2 – filled by Clay Cole. Candidates will participate in The Independent’s Candidate Forum in April.

Filing opens Wednesday in local races


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“We think the event is going to not only break even, but make money in the long run.” Aside from being able to pay back the County’s investment, Heselmeyer says the event will be able “to do some things to promote youth and education in the county, scholarships and those kinds of things moving forward.” The Association plans to host various events, including a rodeo, carnival, live music, var-

ious vendors and food trucks. For those who enjoy beer and wine, there are plans to include a beer and wine garden. “If people are going to drive over from Liberty Hill to Taylor, that’s a bit of a drive, and we want to make sure that they can have a full and exciting day for the whole family,” said Heselmeyer. “Opportunities from having hands-on experience with livestock and horses to enjoying the carnival, food

vendors and staying into the evening for the rodeo and concert.” Moving toward October when the event is scheduled to take place - Heselmeyer and his fair association wants residents of Williamson County to know that this is more than just a Taylor event, but one meant for every community in the county.


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Thursday, January 9, 2020


EDITORIAL: Regardless of the image the public harbors of the news media, decisions on what to cover and, more importantly, how to cover it, are not made with spite or sensationalism in mind. When The Independent learned early this week about some questionable information regarding Liberty Hill Mayor Rick Hall’s personal financial situation, we weighed the issue carefully before deciding to make that phone call, conduct that interview and publish that story. What makes a public official’s personal information public? Historically, once someone enters the public arena – as an elected official, athlete or entertainer – everything is fair game. But that’s not really fair and not how community newspaper reporters – who focus their attention every day on neighbors and people they know – operate. There is a higher standard in determining what should and shouldn’t be shared publicly. Hall’s personal financial information, specifically regarding a federal tax lien, is pertinent and worthy of coverage because Hall is the person chiefly responsible for budgeting and spending your tax dollars in Liberty Hill. Hall is the business leader for the City. That would be the case with any mayor or administrator, but is especially so with Hall. In his 18 months as Mayor, and

Getting personal?

throughout his campaign prior to that, Hall has put a lot of time and effort into promoting his qualifications to manage City staff and the City budget. In his campaign he touted his business experience as a key qualification. When he sought an increased supervisory role over City staff members in May 2019 he cited his business management experience as making him better suited for that role than then-City Administrator Greg Boatright. When the City and Boatright parted ways three months later, Hall again mentioned his business experience. Hall takes credit for having turned around a City budgeting process he claimed was a mess. He increased the budgets in many departments and projected higher revenues in a much less transparent method than usual during last summer’s budget process. If the person making these claims and holding this authority has questions that come out publicly regarding his management of past financial endeavors and taxes not paid, it is immediately relevant to how he has positioned himself in the City’s decision-making process. If Hall is the right person to lead the budgeting and spending of local tax dollars, he should be accountable to the citizens he serves for his past business dealings. In the last budget process,

Hall and the City Council decided elected officials in Liberty Hill should receive a salary. The Mayor’s salary will be $40,000 if re-elected. Once you are paid for work being done, you should definitely be considered an employee, thus bearing the burden of showing you deserve that position the same way anyone else would create a resume and submit an application. With the advent of social media there is also the issue of adding context and clarification to limited information and eventually the likely rumors that follow a story as it spreads across social media. When reporters see such information on social media it is assumed that information is

at that point an issue of public consequence, if for no other reason than to ensure the right information is available to the curious public. Yes, The Independent staff determined that this information regarding Hall’s personal finances is relevant public information. It was not a decision made haphazardly or casually. The newspaper takes its responsibility to the public very seriously. Hall is a public figure – really, the public figure – responsible for managing the business of Liberty Hill. We should know how he managed business before he began working so hard to have the right to manage ours.

staff notebook Our views and other news and musings from THE INDEPENDENT Staff Show your support of local businesses by completing an online survey choosing The Best of Liberty Hill. Complete the survey by Jan. 24 on our website, Share your views on the best restaurants, gift shops, banks, event venues, health care providers, real estate professionals and so much more. Also name

your choices for the friendliest employee, best teacher, and best public employee. If you’re not online, look for the ballot in the Jan. 16 edition of The Independent, and drop it off at our new office, 921 Loop 332, or mail to us at PO Box 1235, Liberty Hill 78642. Winners will be announced in the Feb. 27 edition of the newspaper. ~ Shelly Wilkison

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Blowing the horn to mark the beginning of a new year By WILT CUTTER Columnist They drop a ball in New York City to tell the rest of us that a new year has begun. Back before newspapers sent photographers to cover the event and radio announcers began describing it and television began showing the ball drop, the beginning of a new year was more local, more personal. Before clocks maybe there was no bewitching hour. Imagine back before digital time sat waiting to be read on wrists, phones, screens. Back before Julius Caesar fixed the calendar in 46 B.C. folks just went by weather, seasons and lunar changes to alert them to a new year or perhaps those humans thought it was just a giant circle. Like making a lap, not like adding another sequential number to the last year. The first pocket watch wasn’t invented until 1510, the first wrist watch in 1868. Before we were ordered into our super-structured, organized lives and years by our political/religious bosses, humans probably celebrated every new day like it was a new year. Imagine that. If you woke up it was a celebration. If you wake up grateful to be alive and have a new shot at life it’s hard to beat you down and force you to go to a job you don’t really like. And probably even harder to force you to pay your taxes to politicians you don’t really agree with. A real gift. A brand new day/year, a clean empty cup, and the wide open spaces of a fresh page to fill with newness. The best part of mornings, lungs full of fresh air and new seconds, minutes,

hours, days and years full of promise and hope. No matter how young you are there is nothing like the front end of a do-over or the chance to promise yourself you’ll achieve something that needs beginning or finishing. A mystery that deserves solving, an injustice that needs to be cured or a friendship that merits rekindling. New years generally cause people of a certain age to talk about old years instead of new years, and in their defense that’s because not only do the old years seem closer and more interesting but there are also more of them than the vague promise of new years to come. The Cutter family has an old blowing horn, made from a real ram’s horn. It’s been handed down through the years from one Cutter to another. Who knows if it came out of Scotland or passed through the Middle East. Regardless, it still emits an enormous, clear sound. And our ancestors declared that if it is blown a few seconds right after midnight -- just seconds after the warm kiss, after the whiskey toast -- its sound reverberates across time and space to welcome in the winds of good fortune for the new year. Its loud blast also warns away the evil spirits and any bad luck they may be trying to push in through a crack somewhere. So, we Cutters are learned people devoid of superstition or any ancient silliness of belief in the non-scientific or delusion of old world fantasy. We do, however, allow ourselves to err on the side of colorful tradition, and perhaps for a few moments flounder about in the sacred art of covering all our bases by blowing said horn loud and long.

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Readers donate food for Operation Liberty Hill

During a subscription drive for The Independent prior to Christmas, readers donated 392 pounds of food to Operation Liberty Hill’s food pantry. Readers who donated food received a free subscription to the newspaper. The Independent encourages year-round giving to the local charity as there is always a need for food and personal hygiene items. Operation Liberty Hill is located at 1401 US 183 in Leander. Representing The Independent in the photo above is Office Manager Andrea Brown (second from left).

Connect your business with the exciting innovations and accomplishments taking place in the Liberty Hill ISD!

February 2020 Jan. 17, 2020 Distributed to 10,000+ households by mail


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Thursday, January 9, 2020

Liberty Hill Police Blotter Prepared by Liberty Hill Police Department

Week of Dec. 30- Jan. 5 The Liberty Hill Police Department responded to or self-initiated a total of 249 incidents resulting in five cases, seven citations, 37 warnings and two arrests.

Weekly Highlights: - On Dec. 30, at approximately 11:15 AM, officers responded to Panther Path for suspicious activity. - On Dec. 30, at approximately 4:14 PM, officers responded to the 15000 block of W. SH 29 for a theft complaint. - On Dec. 30, at approximately 9:19 PM, officers responded to Phillip Lane to assist the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office.

- On Dec. 31, at approximately 3:16, officers responded to the 12000 block of W. SH 29 for a theft complaint. - On Dec. 31, at approximately 7:31 PM, officers responded to the 13000 block of W. SH 29 for suspicious activity. - On Jan. 1, at approximately 2:32 PM, officers responded to Civita Road to assist the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office. - On Jan. 1, at approximately 4:40 PM, officers responded to Bronco Boulevard to assist the Liberty Hill Fire/ EMS. - On Jan. 2, at approximately 10:23 AM, officers responded to the 13000 block of W. SH 29 for a suspicious incident. - On Jan. 2, at approximately

12:58 PM, officers responded to the 12000 block of W. SH 29 for a fraud complaint. - On Jan. 3, at approximately 10:06 PM, officers responded to LaDera Drive to assist the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office. - On Jan. 4, at approximately 11:31 AM, officers responded to CR 279 for a theft complaint. - On Jan. 4, at approximately 10:30, officers arrested a female adult with an outstanding warrant as the result of a traffic stop on the 15000 block of W. SH 29. - On Jan. 5, at approximately 9:38 PM, officers responded to CR 279 for a disturbance.


Chess Champion

Liberty Hill Junior High Chess Tournament Champion Mason Rose survived a field of 32 competitors to take the crown, then sat down a day later and took two of three games from LHISD Superintendent Steve Snell. (Courtesy Photo)

LHISD Aspiring Leaders program provides growth opportunity

By ANTHONY FLORES Staff Writer Liberty Hill ISD is providing members of its faculty - at all levels - the opportunity to grow personally and professionally through the Aspiring Leaders Academy. The Aspiring Leaders program is a six-month course of study designed to equip educators with the tools and training needed to become better leaders. The program was first introduced to Liberty Hill ISD by Superintendent Steven Snell. Assistant Superintendent Brad Mansfield is overseeing the program, having had firsthand experience with the program in the school district he previously worked in. The goal of the program is to

help highly motivated faculty members from Liberty Hill reach higher levels of success. “Any time that you have staff members and people in your organization, you always want to help them, especially those that are highly motivated,” said Mansfield. “If you want them to become leaders, you give them opportunities, you give them the training and you give them a chance to work together and learn together about how to support not only students but each other.” The program is centered on helping teachers and other employees reach administrative levels within the district. After announcing the application process, Mansfield expected a turnout in the low teens, but had 34 individuals

sign up for the initiative. “We didn’t just open it up to just somebody who just wanted to be an administrator like a principal or assistant principal,” said Mansfield. “It was for somebody from any department that just wanted to work on their leadership skills because they are a leader within their department or their aspiring to become a leader.” The project consists of six monthly meetings where topics include culture, leadership, and continuous improvement. The primary guide for each meeting is 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell. Three laws from the book are covered in each meeting. Mansfield asks each participant to create a personal

growth goal that they’ll work on for the length of the program, along with a plan of action about how they will achieve their goal. “In this program, you’re going to decide what kind of leader you are,” said Mansfield. “There are different types of leaders. Those that have interpersonal skills, those who lead by example, those that lead by the work ethic and those that lead by asking the right questions. What I want them to learn how to do is find out what their skill set is and help improve it.” Participants are required to work with a team, varying from a department in the district to a group of teachers or even students, and are given tools to help their team solve

various problems. Each participant documents their progress and what methods work and fail. “It’s almost like using the scientific method,” said Mansfield. “They’ve got to predict what’s going to happen, they’ve got to think about how they’re going to get there, and test how it’s going and come up with a conclusion.” Quantifying the effectiveness of the program is difficult early in the process. Mansfield says it won’t be until the six months are complete that a clear picture of the program’s success will be visible. “I think you see the work product that they do, the product that they come up with at the end of the whole thing, the if-then statement, they’re

personal growth statement and did they reach it, did they make progress,” he said. “If they did then it’s not a measure if the program was successful, it’s a measure that they were successful.” For Mansfield, the goal of the program boils down to one thing -- creating champions of the community. “In Liberty Hill, we want to build champions,” he said. “Champions in the classroom, champions on and off the field, and champions in the teachers and staff members. The ultimate goal of this is to help people, to help them learn and grow together to sharpen up their leadership skills and create a love of learning so they can be champions.”

Thursday, January 9, 2020



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to that, but we saw an opportunity to leave the food truck scene but remain as coffee truck owners,” Angie Diaz said. “We liked to focus on the nature of the food truck scene because it caused us to focus on speed and efficiency tied in with quality.” The Diazes eventually added a second coffee truck and opened a couple of corporate cafes inside office buildings in San Diego. “We wanted to continue to grow our business, but San Diego is a very mature city,” Angie Diaz said. “It was hard to find retail opportunities, and rent was three times more expensive than it should have been. We had been looking to move to the Leander area over the last couple of years, and as we ran into the roadblocks of expanding in San Diego, we decided to look into bringing Perky Beans here.” Once they found the shop’s location in North Leander and were ready to make the move to Texas, things moved quickly. The couple moved to Leander in July and the coffee shop opened in early November. The family left one coffee truck in San Diego, as well as the corporate cafes, but brought their other coffee truck to Leander with them. They plan on bringing it out early next year as an option for community and corporate events. Ron Diaz said the reason Perky Beans’ coffee is so good is because the shop offers its own blend of coffee. “We partner with a roaster in Austin and they do the roast the way we like it,” he said. “We do a five-bean blend. It’s always smooth, not over roasted and never bitter. We use it

for our drip coffee, espresso, cold brew and nitro. It tastes slightly different on every application, but this is the same roast we started with and we know people like it. We have a drink that will please everyone.” Angie Diaz said on the non-caffeinated side, the shop’s hot chocolate and frozen hot chocolate drinks have been the most popular. When it comes to coffee, a latte called “The Boss”—named after Angie—is the most asked for drink. “In opening this store, we wanted to have a broad menu, including drinks that would appeal to people who don’t drink coffee,” Angie Diaz said. “We have chai tea lattes and we are actually going to be rolling out loose leaf tea options soon. Heading into the warmer weather next year, we will also offer two or three different iced tea selections, as well as cold brew iced tea and nitro iced tea.” Other popular drinks on the menu include frappuccinos and Red Bull smoothies, made with strawberry, mango or peach. “When we have new people come in and they don’t know what to order, we tell them to just get it,” Angie Diaz said. “If they don’t like it, we’ll find something else for them. We want to work with them to find something they’ll like before they leave.” Perky Beans Coffee also serves up a variety of food made fresh to order. “We make parfaits and sandwiches every morning for our grab-and-go case, and we also do breakfast bagel sandwiches, two different hot sandwiches and avocado toast,” Ron Diaz

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Ron Diaz, co-owner of Perky Beans Coffee, makes a latte behind the counter. The most popular drinks on the menu include hot chocolate, “The Boss” latte and frappuccinos. said. Now that the Diazes have been in the area for several months, they’re loving the “small town” feel of the area, as well as the sense of community and belonging everyone has, Angie Diaz said. “Part of what we want to have happen here is to integrate ourselves with the community and grow with it,” she said. “Our biggest goal is to serve delicious coffee and food and provide great service, but we also want to just be known in the community as part of it. We hope to grow and have more locations down the road.” Unique aspects of the shop, such as providing drive-thru customers with whimsical stickers instead of stoppers on their coffees, are what the Diazes hope to grow as well. “The biggest thing for us is customer experience, so if

you’re going to come in and hang out for a while, we want you to feel like you’re being waited on,” Angie Diaz said. “We’re not a sit-down restaurant, but we want our staff to engage with you so you never actually have to get up. We will bring things out to you and get you refills. In the drive thru, we have little touches and we like to have fun. Other shops have stoppers, but we have stickers—Christmas ones, cows, lips.” Perky Beans is located in the San Gabriel Ridge Shopping Center at 2080 Hwy. 183. The shop is open Monday through Friday from 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit or follow the coffee shop on Facebook or Instagram.


Chamber welcomes Sabino’s Pizza Pub

The Liberty Hill Chamber of Commerce recently celebrated the grand opening of Sabino’s Pizza Pub with a ceremonial ribbon cutting. Owners are David and Amber Sabin. The restaurant is located at 2082 US Hwy 183, Ste 110, Leander, TX 78641. (Photo Courtesy Deborah Reinhard)

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wrote, “Our home was recently posted for a foreclosure sale. We consulted with a modification loan company early on who told us they could help. This process took longer than we had anticipated. Our mortgage company started the process of foreclosure on the property. We decided then to sell our home to prevent the foreclosure from being processed.” The foreclosure notice from the County Clerk’s office did not verify if the property, located at 801 Loop 332, was sold during the foreclosure sale on Tuesday. Hall also did not respond to a question about whether he was continuing to reside in the home or if he had a new residence. Hall also verified the tax lien, which was referred to in records as being related to a small business, would be paid off by the sale of the home, but he denied it was related to business taxes, saying later in the day in a text message that it was related to “personal taxes not business.” Hall responded by e-mail to questions seeking explanation of the lien with a statement, but did not address the circumstances of the tax lien or foreclosure notice. His statement is printed below, unedited: “As mayor of Liberty Hill, I have always put this city as my utmost priority. There are some personal financial issues that my family and I have been undergoing that has come to attention and I would like to talk to you about that today. “Our home was recently posted for a foreclosure sale.


We consulted with a modification loan company early on who told us they could help. This process took longer than we had anticipated. Our mortgage company started the process of foreclosure on the property. We decided then to sell our home to prevent the foreclosure from being processed. “We also have a tax lien on our home that will be paid with the sale of our home. “My family and I have always loved this city and I as your Mayor have put my heart and soul into serving our community. Unforeseen things happen but my family and I are working to resolve our financial issues. “When I was elected, I soon realized that the amount of time that was needed to make our city great and provide the items that our city needs was more than just a few hours a week. My family and I made a decision to put all of my efforts into the position of Mayor and to provide the support to our city that is needed. I want to let you know that this has in no way hindered my ability to serve you as the Mayor of our great city. I will continue to place Liberty Hill first as I have always done even through these personal issues that my family and I are currently going through.” Hall did not respond Wednesday to follow up requests for clarification on the issue. Since first announcing his candidacy for Mayor in the Spring of 2018, Hall has made his business management and leadership experience a key issue in touting his qualifications to lead the City. He reg-

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Roadwork continues on Bagdad Road between Liberty Hill and Leander, where the entrance to the park is taking shape. The addition of more land on the southeast end of the park added to the lengthy development and construction timeline, in part because questions were raised on how to handle utilities. The plan is to have it open to the public by summer. “We’re saying the summer of 2020,” Fishbeck said. “I don’t know right now if that means May, June or July or even August. The reason this window got extended is when we acquired the approximately 350 adjacent acres earlier in 2019 that added a new dimension to that footprint and

it caused the County to back up and say let’s rethink the overhead electrical coming into the park and so the County made a decision to go underground with the electrical. Roads are being developed now. They’re carved out and now they’re being paved. Construction is at full force now.” The additional land, said Fishbeck provides more buffer and opportunity for additional trails in the future. The land for River Ranch Park was acquired by the County in 2008 and funds to make it a reality were only approved through a 2013 bond package. Design Workshop is the architect, and Prime Construc-

Chess Club encourages community to play the game of kings

ularly cited that experience in both his campaigning and in justifications for changes in City leadership structure. Hall did not respond last September to a request from The Independent for his resume. In June 2018, Hall defended a push for an increased supervisory role with City staff. A City Council vote approved taking supervisory duties from then-City Administrator Greg Boatright and giving them to the Mayor. “Greg’s mentioned to me a couple of times, and he’s even said it in Council meetings, that he is not a manager,” Hall said at the time. “So with changing this, and the conversation we had today, I want to help – for lack of a better term, teach (Boatright) how to be the manager the city needs him to be. I’ve had 22 years experience with staff management with thousands of employees under me and I’m just trying to create a structure so we have a solid path moving forward.” When the City and Boatright parted ways in August 2019, Hall again pointed to his business experience as an asset and something that positioned him to lead the City. He also supported the measure in the current budget approved in September 2019 to create a salary of $40,000 for the Mayor and $12,000 for council members. Salaries for each place do not go into effect until the next time someone is elected to each position on the Council. Hall’s term as mayor expires in May, and the filing period to run for re-election begins Jan. 15.

By ANTHONY FLORES Staff Writer At the corner of CR 200 and SH 29 is a building that has been home to a church, a nonprofit organization, and most recently a barber shop. But Larry Diffey is using the space chess enthusiasts. In his younger days, the IT specialist wasn’t the most adept chess player, struggling in matchups. It was these early failures that motivated Diffey to become a student of the game. “I was playing with a friend when I was about 15 or 16, and I was getting slaughtered,” Diffey said. “I was so frustrated. After that, I took the time to learn about the game and the strategies involved.” Diffey recently began playing quite a bit of the game online. It’s the craving for face-to-face competition and the feeling of moving pieces on a physical board that inspired Diffey to start a chess club for the community. “I like playing on the board, but I don’t get the opportunity to sit down with people,” he said. “The strategies and tactics are the same, but there’s just something better about playing on the board.” Beyond his desire for a physical feel and an opponent across the board, Diffey learned that the lessons chess provides can help players in different aspects of their lives. “Chess, in general, is an excellent brain stimulator,” he said. “The tactics and strategy in chess apply to a lot of dif-


tion Company Inc. is the contractor. For Pct. 2 County Commissioner Cynthia Long, the opening of the park and all it promises has created a lot of anticipation. “With the amazing growth that we are seeing in Williamson County, it is good to have a place not too far away where people can go and unwind in nature,” Long said. “We are grateful for our partners at Texas Parks and Wildlife for their grant, which will help us to enhance the experience we offer park visitors with information about the historic, natural and cultural resources that can be found in the park.”

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of 13125 Highway 29, Liberty Hill, Williamson County, Texas, commonly known as the Liberty Hill Junior High School. Said 1 acre portion of the Liberty Hill Junior High School property is described as that portion that borders Highway 29 to the North, the District’s driveway to the West, undeveloped commercial zoned land to the East, and the school parking to the South. Interested parties may contact Jennifer Hanna, CFO via the address below to receive the Bid Package beginning 8:00am, January 6, 2020. The requested minimum bid price is $750,000.00. Sealed bids will be received until: 2:00 P.M. FRIDAY, JANUARY 31, 2020. Address: LIBERTY HILL INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT Attn: Ms. Jennifer Hanna, Chief Financial Officer 301 Forrest Street Liberty Hill, TX 78642 All bids received at, or prior to, that time will be opened and read aloud. Bids received after that date and time will be returned unopened to the bidder. Faxed or e-mailed bids will not be accepted. (1/16)


Liberty Hill Chess Club founder Larry Diffey alongside one of his many chess sets. The club meets for the first time at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 13. ferent areas of life, how you game better,” he said. “Just think through problems, and because of what it can do for trying to see ahead to the con- your thinking process, your sequences of particular prob- logical thinking. It’s valuable for all the areas of your life.” lems.” Diffey encourages all memThe ideal outcome Diffey bers of the community to take hopes for is to reach a point part in the club’s meetings, re- where members of the community, both adults and adogardless of skill level. “Anybody can come in here lescents, can come together to and play chess. I don’t care if create stronger ties with each you’ve never played chess, other. if you don’t understand the “I’d like to see a good comrules yet,” he said. “It’s a great munity group of kids and game, and just about anybody adults that can get together, can benefit from playing it.” play chess, meet each other Diffey believes that getting and form some cohesion in the children in the community in- community,” he said. To become a member of the volved with the group can benefit them by expanding their chess club, join the group Libminds and ways of approach- erty Hill Chess club on Facebook. The first meeting for the ing situations. “I would have liked to have group is Jan. 13, at 6:30 p.m. gotten involved in chess as a kid now that I understand the

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change,” Hicks said. “You can do that and still earn your endorsement and that’s the beauty of today’s high school offerings have versus before.” She added that being able to experience these options in high school can turn into a big benefit once a student moves on to college, avoiding the often seen need to change majors. “Often that’s because we didn’t have courses in high school to give kids experiences to understand those fields,” she said. “Now with this we’re giving them a taste of that field of study before they graduate from high school within the safety network of our high school while they are still at home and can have conversations with their parents about that pathway without it costing parents anything.” The process of putting together the course catalog parents and students will explore and plan over begins early in the previous school year with student surveys and teacher feedback. “We surveyed our kids in October, and that’s after we asked our teachers what they were seeing in the courses they offer or maybe things they were hearing in the professional development they attended and then they submit those proposals to principals as to the courses they’d like,” Hicks said. “In October we review those proposals, but we also review the student data, which are the surveys we sent out. From there we try to tailor our course catalog to met student interest but also what our occupation data says.” In some career areas it is easy to match up student interest with existing real-world career opportunities, but not always, and that’s where the district works with Rural Workforce Solutions. Even then, geographical career tweaks are needed, said Hicks. “(Rural Workforce Solutions) does an analysis specific to this area, but what it doesn’t take into account is how close we are to Austin or what the job market looks like in Austin and that’s where we say there’s not much interest in marketing from our kids based on the survey and we don’t see

occupation data within the rural workforce to say marketing is a big demand, but we know if you’re in an urban area like Austin marketing is a big demand so we don’t want to discount that either,” she said. The goal is to keep every door open to students. “We try to include as many options as possible in our course catalog and then from student selections, after our counselors have shared that information with parents and with students, the students then make their selections and from the selections we look to see if the class made and try to work it in the master schedule,” she said. “We really try to be creative and hope we can make a master schedule that fits all of our students needs.” Once the meetings are over and course selections are made, the puzzle pieces are put together on each campus. “We have a master schedule board, and I’m going to speak to it as a former principal, and what I did was create a draft of that,” Hicks said. “My counselor and I would sit down together and we would craft out a skeleton of a master schedule and then from there I’d bring in my department chairs and ask if there was anything I’m not thinking about. Everybody has their eyes on that master schedule to make sure it is smooth.” According to this year’s student survey of career cluster data, Arts, AV Technology and Communications ranked highest in student interest. “The AV class we offer actually wasn’t offered this year because we didn’t see a lot of student interest so I was surprised to see that was number one in student interest,” Hicks said. “So that is back in our course catalog to make sure we have options for kids since it is the number one interest for kids.” Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources was second among those surveyed and Human Services was third. The fastest growing cluster was in Health Sciences. Government, Finance and Marketing were the bottom three clusters, according to student interest. While scheduling the variety

of classes to meet all interests is a challenge, Hicks said the online option has helped with that problem. “That’s the beauty of technology now because we can offer online courses that will meet that student need where we don’t need a physical classroom, but we can have kids with an online course taking different courses all within one area,” she said. Students are not the only ones who have input into the process as teachers can submit proposals for courses they want to teach as well. The state provides a list of course options, but even those not identified by the state can be proposed. “In addition to those the state recognizes there are courses perhaps they haven’t even considered that could be of high interest to the community so they allow you to write an innovative proposal that is submitted in January to TEA for approval,” Hicks said. And a wealth of extracurricular options also helps when classes are not an option. “If none of that works out then we also have clubs,” Hicks said. “And we want to make sure that we’re appealing to student interest, if those courses don’t work out, through clubs.” She cited the future plan to include E-Sports as an example. “Students who compete in E-Sports – and it’s like a sport but it’s behind a computer – can actually earn scholarships,” Hicks said. “That is something I am hoping we can start next year as a high-interest student club and another way for our kids to connect.” Surveys not only help plan courses for the upcoming year, but can impact more strategic long-term plans for school district facilities growth. “What we recognized based on student interest was the construction trade was of high interest to our kids and we don’t have the facilities for that,” Hicks said. “So as we go forward that will certainly have to be something we look to as far as how will we create the structure to promote that field of study.”

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Garrison Clopton (#6) performed well defensively and added a goal in a 2-1 win over Progreso.

THE LIBERTY HILL INDEPENDENT Thursday, January 9, 2020 Section B Page 1


Senior midfielder Gerald Shoetan (#9) scored a goal in a 5-0 Liberty Hill victory against Alvarado in the Panther Cup.

Moving forward with confidence

By SCOTT AKANEWICH Sports Editor When Liberty Hill head boys’ soccer Coach Wayne Munger scheduled rugged competition for his club in the opening four games of the season at last weekend’s Panther Cup, it was a calculated risk. Either his side could gain valuable confidence with success or suffer morale-breaking defeats. What he got was a little bit of both. The Panthers finished the three-day event with a 2-2 record, defeating Progreso, 2-1 and Alvarado, 5-0, while losing to Midlothian Heritage, 4-3 and Palestine, 1-0. Against Midlothian, the Panthers fell behind by a 4-0

Liberty Hill boys went 2-2 at the Panther Cup

score, only to fight back to 4-3 on the strength of a Jaron Frye hat trick. An early Palestine goal, which was the result of a defensive mistake, cost the Panthers the game in a 1-0 loss to the Wildcats in a contest that Liberty Hill struggled to get back into once going behind, said Munger. “Palestine was very technical in how they moved the ball around,” he said. “It was a tough one.” A hard-fought 2-1 win against Progreso was the Panthers’ first victory of the new campaign and provided his squad with some much-needed confidence, said Munger. “We have a little bit of history against them,” he said. “We’ve

seen them the last few years at the regional tournament and we know they’re going to be between us and a state title, so going up on a quality team like them 2-0 was big for us.” After the Red Ants had pulled a goal back in the second half to make it a 2-1 game, a penalty was awarded after a Liberty Hill handball was called in the Panthers’ area, but senior goalkeeper Uriel Diaz made a spectacular save to preserve the lead and the eventual win, but Munger knows when the sides meet again, none of that will matter, he said. “Both of us will be different teams over the next two or three months,” said Munger. “Just because we beat them now, doesn’t mean we’ll beat

them next time.” The final matchup of the weekend saw the Panthers easily dispatch Alvarado by a 5-0 scoreline, as Frye scored another hat trick to go with one against Midlothian, scoring seven goals in the four games and staking his claim as the most dangerous striker in the region. “I think it’s going to be another good season for Jaron,” said Munger. A trio of Panthers including junior midfielder Graeme Nelson, along with a pair of sophomores -- midfielder Hayden Ersham and defender Garrison Clopton -- really impressed over the weekend, said Munger. “Graeme was definitely one

of the bright spots for us,” he said. “He got called up from the JV because of the injuries we’ve had and showed a lot of fight. Hayden and Garrison are really going to be good for us the next few years. I’m really happy to see the young guys doing what they are.” However, those three aren’t the only Panthers who are beginning to roar with regularity. “I think all of our young guys as a whole are stepping up,” said Munger. “Especially our sophomores who are becoming more confident and showing they can handle the physical side of the varsity game.” As for what he learned about his team from what transpired over the weekend, Munger said he’s pleased with how his

players are continuing to improve as they move forward. “We had some tough competition this weekend, but I think we progressively got better as we went along,” he said. “Also, it was a good conditioning test playing four games in three days, so overall, it was good.” Munger stressed finding weaknesses now will save suffering because of them later. “For the most part, I’d rather know what our problems are now,” he said. “The weekend was a good test for us early on and we learned a lot about ourselves.” After conceding four goals in the opener against Midlothian,

See BOYS, Page B3

Midfield maestros fuel Lady Panthers’ fire A quartet of players in the middle of the park make LHHS girls go

By SCOTT AKANEWICH Sports Editor Midfield is often referred to as the “engine room” of a soccer team. For, that is where everything passes through – whether offensively or defensively – as the play constantly unfolds during the course of a contest. Inside that ever-changing dynamic must be a group of players who possess all the critical qualities to properly influence the outcome of the proceedings. Passing, vision, control and leadership are only a few of the attributes needed to guide a side to victory. For the Liberty Hill girls’ squad, the quartet in the middle of the park consists of Emma Stephens, Mykenna Russo, Abbey Janicek and Madi Fuller. Each one has her own primary strength and when successfully blended together form a recipe for scoring goals at one end of the pitch and preventing them at the other. According to Lady Panthers head Coach Darren Bauer, his Fantastic Four forms an almost unbeatable combination – as if they are both immovable object and irresistible force all rolled into one. “We have players in our midfield who can do it all,” said Bauer. “All of them can shoot, pass, move and understand the game – they’re a complete package and each one of them adds something special to our team.” Fuller, who is the leading returning scorer from last season’s side with 26 goals and 30 assists, is the most aggressive and physical of the group, he

said. “Madi is all about hard work,” said Bauer. “She has all kinds of athleticism.” Janicek is the one who sees the field best and reacts accordingly. “Abbey has very good vision of the entire field,” he said. Stephens is the best of the bunch on the ball, with the ability to keep control while not slowing her run. “Emma has tremendous speed while dribbling the ball,” said Bauer. Russo is always the picture of composure. “Mykenna has control – that’s her in a word,” he said. Janicek said her role, as well as those of her midfield mates, must be on point at all times. “Midfielders have to be awake the entire game,” she said. “Even when there are little distractions, you have to figure it out.” A junior and team captain who chalked up eight goals and 10 assists last season, Janicek is a shifty player who is always trying to find even the slightest opening or weakness to exploit in an opponent. “I like to find passes that can penetrate the defense,” she said. “I have to be crafty and find different spaces to operate in.” Along with all her tangible responsibilities, Janicek and her fellow juniors on the roster must also fill the leadership void created by not having a single senior on the squad – something which only adds to what she must accomplish on the pitch, she said. “It’s a little bit different and a lot more pressure,” said Janicek. “I always have to make a

difference in the game – even if it means gathering the team to realize what we’re trying to do.” Despite off-the-field differences between various players, Janicek said when the ball is kicked off, all of that is left on the sidelines for the greater good. “We realize there are different cliques on our team,” she said. “But, when it’s time to play, we always come together.” Bauer added the midfield helps alleviate the strain on the strikers at the top of the formation, with its myriad skills. “Especially with our forwards – the way the midfield plays takes a lot of pressure off them,” he said. “All four always work hard to get the ball back when we lose it.” Janicek said one of the critical elements to running the show the right way is to utilize the wide-open spaces which sometimes exist when an opponent fails to keep its shape. “We have to make sure we use the entire field at one time,” she said. “Our holding midfielders have to see when someone makes a run forward and cover for them at the back.” All four players in the midfield must also have the ability to be able to both react to what happens, as well as be able to anticipate what might happen next before it does, said Janicek. “I think it’s a mixture of both,” she said. “All four midfielders know what each other likes to do to the point where we can almost see what’s going to happen next and then SHANNON HOFMANN PHOTO

See LADIES, Page B2 Abbey Janicek (#5) has excellent field vision in finding openings in opposing defenses.

Thursday, January 9, 2020


Page B2

Panther Cup lives up to expectations

By SCOTT AKANEWICH Sports Editor As the early-morning sun illuminated Panther Stadium the morning of Jan. 2, a brisk wind swept across the pair of pitches as the ball was kicked off for the second annual Panther Cup and what we saw unfold over the course of the weekend certainly didn’t disappoint. Three days, 14 teams, 28 games. Both the Liberty Hill girls and boys were in action, as the respective Purple-and-Gold squads played host to teams from far and wide in providing top-drawer competition to kick off the new campaign. One footballer who definitely enjoyed himself was Panthers junior striker Jaron Frye. All the lad did over the three days was score seven goals including a pair of hat tricks in a 5-0 victory against Alvarado and a wild, 4-3 defeat at the hands of Midlothian Heritage. Frye is the kind of player who you feel is going to make something happen every time he touches the ball, with a deadly combination of explosiveness, anticipation and speed. Plenty of speed. All a teammate needs to do is send a nicely-weighted ball beyond a defender and Frye will simply turn on the jets and blow past as if he was negotiating a practice cone. Next thing you know, he’s in on goal. Or when he’s already got the

ball at his gifted feet and is flying down the flank with a defender closely marking him, only to slam on the brakes and execute a spin move before cutting back across his man and continuing upfield. Suffice to say, Frye will be terrorizing opposing defenses all season. As a team, the boys went 2-2 for the tournament, dropping their opening two games by scores of 4-3 and 1-0 before bouncing back with victories against Progreso (2-1) and Alvarado (5-0). Panthers head Coach Wayne Munger has already had injuries to deal with as Kegan Taggart looked more like Conor McGregor after a championship bout, the result of a clash of heads with an opponent, which required eight stitches and kept the sophomore striker out of the lineup for the remainder of the weekend. Another starting sophomore, midfielder Sean Snelgrooes, also picked up an ankle knock which prevented him from finishing the tourney. So, squad depth already came into play, but no worries, as junior Graeme Nelson morethan-ably stepped in for his injured teammates and didn’t miss a beat, skillfully doing his duty. The game against Progreso was easily the most compelling of the weekend, as the Panthers took a commanding 2-0 lead on goals by sophomore midfielder Garrison Clopton and Frye (who else, right?) before the Red Ants (maybe the greatest team mascot ever) pulled one back in the second half to halve the deficit. At that point, it was game on

for both sides, who proceeded to engage in a physical battle for the remainder of the contest, complete with rash challenges and even a row on the pitch when after the Progreso goal, a Red Ant decided to retrieve the ball from the back of his own net and refused to give it up as he nonchalantly strolled back to the center circle for the restart – something the home side didn’t take too kindly to. Finally, in the 70th (and final) minute of play, Frye was back defending a desperate lastchance saloon attack in the Liberty Hill area when a shot rang in which caromed off his hand for a penalty. Now we had high drama in Pantherville and it was up to senior goalkeeper Uriel Diaz to save the day for the home side, which he did with a dare-wesay Panther-like reflex save at the death to preserve the lead and ultimately the victory. Sorry, but whenever we hear “Progreso,” we think of soup (yeah, we know, it’s two Ss), but close enough! Anyway, at the end of the day, a split of the four matches was probably a fair result and definitely a good gauge for Munger to evaluate his players against rugged competition. All that and we haven’t even mentioned the Lady Panthers yet! Head Coach Darren Bauer’s club picked right up where they left off last season as in not conceding goals at one end of the pitch while filling the net at the other. Liberty Hill outscored the opposition 13-0 over the four games played and incredibly only won two of them as the

Playing ‘The System’


Don’t tell Kegan Taggart soccer isn’t a physical sport, as this gash sustained during the Panther Cup required eight stitches.

middle two matches ended in scoreless draws. Goalkeeper Sam Carter was brilliant between the sticks and continues to collect more clean sheets than a freshly-stocked linen closet for a side who only allowed 11 (count ‘em, 11!) goals all last season. However, following a 7-0 beatdown of North Lamar in the opener, which saw sophomore striker Emma Stephens and junior forward Piper Tabor each netted a brace (that’s two goals for the uninitiated), the goals dried up for the next two games in which neither side scored. So, in the finale on Saturday afternoon, it was a freshman who stepped to the forefront in the form of rookie striker Kailey Fowler. All she did was her very best Jaron Frye impression in picking up a hat trick in a 6-0 victory against Copperas Cove (which sounds like an “X” on a treasure map in “Pirates of

the Caribbean”) and for all the fight the Bulldawgs (not spelled with a “w,” hear that, Burnet?) Captain Jack Sparrow may as well have been playing all 11 positions on the pitch after an all-night bender. Anyway, Fowler was aggressive all game long and became more and more hungry after she scored her first of the game and then her second, until she finally completed her hat trick with the kind of flair which belied her relative lack of experience at the high-school varsity level. Remember, this is a club who advanced all the way to the Class 4A state championship game last season only to fall short, which has made this year’s version that much more focused on a return trip this time around to close the deal and lift a trophy. Both the girls and boys finished third for the weekend in their respective seven-team fields, which was more than

respectable, as Midlothian Heritage took home the title on both sides of the gender line. In fact, only the Jaguars’ plus17 goal difference was better than the Lady Panthers and the only game they didn’t win was the 0-0 draw against the hosts, so job well done, ladies. On the boys’ side, winners Midlothian only conceded four goals all weekend and three of them were off the boot of Frye in the Panthers’ 4-3 loss in the tourney opener for both sides. So, all in all, very impressive performances on both sides and the best part is we’re only getting started, people! Soccer season is a long and winding road, filled with ups and downs, emotional swings and purple (and gold) patches, as well as rough going – something which should be embraced as one immerses oneself. Panther Cup was an excellent start and bravo to those who made it happen.

High-intensity is the name of the game for Panther basketball

By SCOTT AKANEWICH Sports Editor A quarter-century ago when Barry Boren was head coach at Little Cypress-Mauriceville High School, an assistant coach of his at the time approached him with an idea. “We had finished 15-15 two years in a row, but our team was very fundamentally sound,” said Boren. “One of my assistants, Jeff Burke, said to me, ‘You know, I think we can play this way.’” But, at first, Boren wasn’t so sure. “I had already had success coaching different ways,” he said, of the new concept, which included full-court pressure and constantly running the floor. “So, at first I was skeptical, but as a coach you’re always looking for an edge.”

However, once he began to comprehend how it worked, it began to make sense in Boren’s basketball brain, he said. “How it works is if you play a team you should normally beat by 10 points and you have an off-night shooting, you might only beat them by two,” said Boren. “But, if you play this way, you still might win by 20.” “The way” is simply known as “The System.” Call it what you want. Organized chaos. Helter-Skelter. Hair-on-fire hoops. However one chooses to describe how the Panthers play, one thing is for sure. If you’re an opposing team, your fitness level better be high because you’re going to do a lot of running. Not to mention it works. In fact, all it took to sell Boren

Emma Stephens (#8) is the Lady Panthers’ best dribbler and is very difficult to get off the ball.


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one of us has to react. We’re very hard to break down as a midfield because of the different styles of play each one of us has.” Midfielders are counted on to be every bit a provider as well as a scorer when the situation dictates, but Janicek said she definitely prefers to find the back of the net herself – under certain conditions, that is. “I definitely like attacking more than defending,” she said. “Also, I’d much rather

score a goal than get an assist – but only if it’s a good one like into the upper corner or something.” Of the four, Russo is new to the team this season, but the other three were all members of the Lady Panthers’ squad who were defeated in last year’s Class 4A state championship game by Stephenville by a score of 2-0, one of only three losses they endured over the course of the entire campaign and Janicek said the

was a simple practice scrimmage between the varsity and junior varsity – the first time his team played the system under game-like conditions. “We spotted the JV 50 points to start the game,” he said. “We ended up scoring over 100 points and blew them out – that made me a believer. We decided to implement it right before the season began that year.” At the time, the Bears had never been to the playoffs in 32 years of competing in Class 4A against more athletic teams from bigger schools, but now that the new system was in place, things began to change for the better – and in a hurry. “We started beating people by 25 or 30 points,” said Boren. “It was just relentless pursuit


Carson Perkins (#4) runs the Panthers’ system from his point guard position, one which he’s See SYSTEM, Page B6 been playing for seven seasons.


Madi Fuller (#7) plays with an unmatched intensity and isn’t Mykenna Russo (#3) controls everything in the midfield with an afraid to shoot from distance. excellent understanding of the game. disappointment of that loss has fueled them as they looked forward to and got ready for this season. “What that did was really light a fire under us coming into this season,” she said. “Even our young players who weren’t on that team watched and saw how much it hurt us.” Two years ago, Liberty Hill lost in the state semifinals, while last season the Lady Panthers got one step closer to a title only to fall short in the

final, so according to Janicek, the next logical step in the progression is to finally lift a trophy this time around. “We got bronze the year before last and silver last season,” she said. “So, this year we’re looking to get gold.” Janicek then broke down the strengths of her midfield teammates, beginning with Fuller. “Madi loves to run – all you have to do is hit a ball forward and she’ll go and get it – she plays with a real fire,”

she said. “Emma (Stephens) is really good on the ball and it’s hard to get it away from her and Mykenna (Russo) is always in between all of us looking for passes and keeping everything calm.” When all four are clicking on all cylinders, it’s simply a joy to be a part of, said Janicek. “It feels really good,” she said. “Everything is crisp and sharp like you’re running all over the field.” So, what’s the one element

a good midfielder must have over all else? “Work ethic,” said Janicek. “You always have to go forward, but also track back to cover ground defensively.” One word to describe the four? “Dynamic,” said Bauer. “All of them are very determined and want to win gold this year.”

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Panther midfielder a steady hand

By SCOTT AKANEWICH Sports Editor Jessie Anaya always wanted to be a Panther. Growing up and spending life in Liberty Hill will do that to a young lad, especially one who has had a soccer ball at his feet for as long as he can remember. “I started playing soccer when I was two years old,” said Anaya, a junior midfielder and team captain. As one of the players counted on to anchor the middle of the Panthers’ park, Anaya relies on proper positioning to make up for a lack of pace and although speed isn’t necessarily his strong point, he can certainly keep his engine running long after others have run out of fuel. “I’m not the fastest player,” he said. “But, I can keep on running.” Anaya began running cross country in the fall in order to maintain his fitness level throughout the offseason and it has definitely added to his overall game, which ultimately helps the team and is what he’s all about. “For me, it’s about being a part of something bigger than

myself,” said Anaya. “As a team, we go through everything together.” During Liberty Hill’s season opener against Midlothian Heritage at the Panther Cup on Jan. 2, Anaya and his teammates quickly fell behind by a score of 4-0, but by game’s end had reduced the deficit to 4-3 – a defeat, but a fightback nonetheless. “I think when we started that game, we weren’t ready,” he said. “But, then out of nowhere, something clicked – which is what we try to work on every game.” Anaya only scored three goals last year during his sophomore season, but contributed a teamhigh 12 assists, which suits him just fine, he said. “I like scoring goals, but I love getting assists,” said Anaya. “Because when other guys score goals, it puts a smile on their faces.” A midfielder’s role is to attack, while also remaining defensively responsible, but there’s no doubt on which side of the center line Anaya’s heart is. “I definitely prefer attacking,” he said. As far as what he prefers in

the classroom, the choice is clear, but not because of the material, said Anaya. “Physics,” he said. “But, the reason I like that class so much is (teacher Aaron) Russo because of how he tells us something is going to happen and then explains the concept.” Anaya added many people are surprised to find out he moonlights as a cross country runner. “I don’t think many people expect that,” he said. “But, it really helps me with soccer.” Being a part of the close-knit group which makes up the Panthers’ cross country squad is also something Anaya’s enjoyed, he said. “We have a pretty good family,” said Anaya. “We really connect well, then after the races is when the real fun begins.” Anaya said finally being a Liberty Hill soccer player after always aspiring to be one has been every bit as rewarding as he could’ve possibly imagined. “Being here feels really good,” he said. “It’s lived up to SHANNON HOFMANN PHOTO everything I always thought it Jessie Anaya (#12) also runs cross country for the Panthers in order to stay in better shape for was going to be.” soccer.

Walker twins work wonders on the basketball court

Cheryl Gauthier, left, signed a national letter of intent to play golf at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs alongside mother Chong at Liberty Hill High School on Dec. 18. (Courtesy Photo)

Gauthier signs with University of Colorado for golf

By SCOTT AKANEWICH Sports Editor Ever since Cheryl Gauthier first picked up a golf club, she had a dream of competing at the college level. Now, that dream has become a reality for the Liberty Hill senior, who signed a national letter of intent to play golf at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs on Dec. 18 at Liberty Hill High School. “Ever since I started playing golf, I always wanted to play in college,” said Gauthier. “There was a huge gap for me until now because I didn’t know where I was going to go.” Gauthier said she’s happy to be moving to a more agreeable climate for her liking. “I really don’t like the heat here,” she said. “So, I wanted a change of scenery.” Exchanging Texas Hill Country for the Rocky Mountains will certainly provide her with exactly that – and an opportunity to pursue her passion – although that wasn’t always the case. “I started playing golf when I was four, but then stopped when I was seven because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” said Gauthier. “But, then when I was 11 in sixth grade, I started playing again.” Suffice to say, the rest has been history since she returned to the fairways. “With golf, I feel like I’m involved in a really unique sport,” she said. “I find appreciation in things most other people don’t and golf requires

a different kind of etiquette – and I really like different.” But, that doesn’t mean she wasn’t open to other activities, listing tennis, drums, piano and ballet as other things she tried out before sticking solely with pars and birdies. But, now as she moves on to a higher level of competition, she knows she can’t be complacent with her game, she said. “I know I’m going to have to step up and refine all of my skill sets,” said Gauthier. “In college, you’re up against other people whose passion is golf and who put all kinds of time and effort into the game.” Gauthier added she has aspirations of someday playing on the LPGA Tour, but for now will concentrate on an engineering degree in order to propel her professional life away from the course. “I’m really interested in cyber security and where I’m going is close to the Air Force Academy,” she said. “So, I’m hoping that can lead to opportunities.” Back on the course again, Gauthier said another aspect of the game she enjoys is the fact it’s a one-on-one competition between golfer and course and the fact it’s all on her shoulders as far as if she succeeds or fails. “I really like the idea of only having myself to rely on,” she said. “You have to work so hard, but then the hard work, time and effort pays off – it’s all about self-reliance.” According to Gauthier, the

mind and body challenge golf presents her with is one of the most fascinating aspects of her love affair with the game. “Your body and muscles are all trained to react a certain way,” said Gauthier. “But, sometimes you have to tell yourself you need to change your state of mind and think about what your goals are, but you have to be careful because it’s really easy to overthink everything.” As far as her time as a Liberty Hill golfer is concerned, Gauthier said it’s something she certainly hasn’t taken lightly. “During my time here, I’ve seen myself change so much as a person,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of people come and go who really care about the sport and who put as much into it as I do. Everyone’s always been so supportive.” With the recent success at the college level of other former Panthers such as Parker McCurdy, John Baker and Donny Harper, Gauthier is simply hoping to maintain positive Purple-and-Gold momentum. “It makes me really happy to see other people I’ve known get to move forward with their careers,” said Gauthier. “Hopefully, I can do the same.” Finally, Gauthier said she couldn’t have accomplished what she has without the help of her coaches over the years. “My coaches always told me I was capable of this,” she said. “Moving forward, I hope to fulfill those expectations.”

By SCOTT AKANEWICH Sports Editor When one watches a Lady Panthers basketball game, there’s a good chance a red blur will fly past at some point chasing opponents around and wreaking havoc for whoever dares challenge them on the hardwood. Not one blur, but two. Regan and Madison Walker are sophomore guards who provide the Liberty Hill girls’ basketball squad with a two-(red) headed, energetic, hard-working machine. By the way, they’re identical twins. So, that means opposing players and coaches aren’t seeing double when both are in the game at the same time – no, it’s simply twice as much to handle. Different, but the same. According to Madison, having a teammate who is a sibling provides a comfort level that transcends the typical player relationship. “It’s cool because we have a bond and I can talk and communicate with her,” said Madison. “What that does is make our bond even closer.” Regan said the sisters allow each other the freedom to critique one another as far as their respective on-court performances. “She always helps tell me what I need to do better,” she said. “So, it’s good to have someone who’s always pushing me hard to do better.” So what’s a pointer that has been exchanged along the way? “I think Madison doesn’t shoot enough,” said Regan. “She has a pretty good shot.” On the other hand, Madison is more than happy to dish the ball to her sister when the opportunity presents itself, she said.



(ABOVE) Madison Walker (#4) plays point guard for the Lady Panthers with a physical style in driving to the basket to either pass or shoot the ball. (BELOW) Regan Walker (#3) is a shooting guard who also brings defensive intensity to the court.

“I’ve always played point guard,” said Madison. “She’s the shooter.” Both played other sports in their younger years, including volleyball and gymnastics and the pair still compete in track for the Panthers, but it’s on the court where they found their

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shoring up his side’s defense was the primary order of the day, said Munger. “We solved our defensive problems after that one, but we’re still deciding whether to play three or four at the back,” he said. “It’ll probably depend on who we’re playing.” Lessons were also learned at the other end of the pitch. “We learned we need imme-

diate support going forward and putting guys up there,” said Munger. “We also need to improve our holdup play and our defensive organization as well as our attacking.” In the game against Alvarado, Munger said his charges were suffering from a bit of fatigue. “We were only up 1-0 at halftime and I think we had tired legs,” he said. “But, it

true athletic calling, said Regan. “When we got to high school, we decided to pick one sport and focus on it,” she said. “We both like basketball, so that’s what we did.”

See TWINS, Page B6

was good for them to be out there like that and be able to get in the groove.” Along with Frye’s hat trick against the Indians, senior midfielder Gerald Shoetan and junior striker Ethan Minix also found the back of the net in the 5-0 victory. Liberty Hill (2-2) will next face a road game against Hutto on Jan. 10.

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Liberty Hill third at Panther Cup

Jaron Frye had a hat trick in Liberty Hill’s season-opener at the Panther Cup on Jan. 2, but the junior striker’s heroics proved to not be enough in a 4-3 defeat at the hands of Midlothian Heritage. “It was a tough game,” said Frye. “We were a little bit lazy in the first half, but then we started to pick it up.” Unfortunately, by the time the Panthers awoke from their early-game slumber, they found themselves in a 4-0 hole, but slowly began to claw their way out of it. In the 56th minute, Frye converted a penalty to get the home side on the board and the goal seemed to ignite the Panthers’ attack. Ethan Minix fired a shot on goal, which was saved by the Jaguars’ goalkeeper, but soon after, it was Frye who once again found the back of the net after breaking in on goal and beating the keeper with an expertly-placed shot to make it 4-2. Only moments after the restart, Frye fired a shot from the left wing which cannoned off the crossbar, but in the 69th minute, he wasn’t to be denied his hat trick. After the Panthers had won a free kick just outside the area, Frye stepped up a sent a screamer along the surface which passed through the Midlothian wall, then caromed off the outstretched hand of the keeper before banking in off the post and a 4-3 score. However, that was all for the Purple-and-Gold as the visitors killed off the rest of the game. According to Liberty Hill head Coach Wayne Munger, his club struggled to remain resolute defensively in the first half. “The biggest thing for us was we needed to be tighter with our marking,” said Munger. “It wasn’t until we began to get in better positions, we started to succeed and found our way back into the game.” As for the goal haul Frye provided on the day, Munger is confident his star striker is only getting started. “Jaron’s going to have a lot of goals in him,” he said. “He attracts so much attention, it opens things up for his teammates.” Frye attributed the second-half turnaround to better communication. “Our defense started talking to one another,” he said. “We can take a positive from this and learn from our mistakes.” Frye scored 33 goals last season and is already well on pace to shatter that this campaign. “I’m real excited about it,” he said. “There are a lot more to come.” LHHS 2, Progreso 1 Whenever Liberty Hill and Progreso meet on a soccer field, it’s usually a rough-and-


tumble affair and Friday afternoon at Panther Stadium was no different. Garrison Clopton and Jaron Frye scored in the 18th and 30th minutes, respectively, in a 2-1 victory against Progreso for Liberty Hill’s first win of the new season. However, after the Red Ants had pulled one back in the 54th minute to make it 2-1, the game came down to a penalty in the 69th minute, which was awarded to Pregreso after it was deemed the Panthers’ Gerald Shoetan had committed a handball in the Liberty Hill penalty area. Up stepped the Progreso shooter, but Panthers senior goalkeeper Uriel Diaz was equal to the task in smothering the low shot and sweeping it aside to preserve the lead and moments later, victory was secured. Munger said Diaz was the right man in the right situation. “Uriel’s a really good reaction keeper,” he said. “He made a great save.” Frye already has four goals in the new campaign’s first three games and the Liberty Hill bench boss is confident in his main striker, said Munger. “If Jaron’s on the field, we know he has goals in him,” he said. Munger added games like this one is what will ready his squad for eventual rough patches which await down the road as the season unfolds. “Sure, you want to get a comfortable win,” he said. “But, situations like this make you better – it builds a lot more confidence.” As each passing game goes by, Munger believes his club is gaining the experience it needs to be able to compete against tougher sides. “It’s a matter of everyone getting comfortable with each other,” he said. “We want to keep improving and know the style of play which works best for us and gives us a chance to win games.” Palestine 1, LHHS 0 After conceding four goals in their season-opening defeat to Midlothian Heritage on Thursday, Munger knew he needed to shore up his side’s defense. So, he did. However, the attack dried up and the result was a 1-0 loss to Palestine in Liberty Hill’s second game of the Panther Cup on Friday. After the Wildcats struck late in the first half for the only goal of the game, the visitors managed to hold off the hosts the rest of the way. Munger was pleased with the defensive effort, but knows his club must be on at both ends of the field. “We did a lot better defensively and solved our issues there,” he said. “But, we still have to transition to our attack better – that was our biggest learning point – we have to be solid defensively before we worry about our attack.”

Injuries have plagued the Panthers early on, as sophomore striker Kegan Taggart (cut over eye) and sophomore defender Sean Snelgrooes (ankle) were hurt in the Midlothian game, which has forced Munger to juggle his lineup. “We have to take care of ourselves and keep people healthy,” he said. Liberty Hill 5, Alvarado 0 On Saturday, the Panthers wrapped up the weekend with a 5-0 defeat of Alvarado as Frye had his second hat trick in three days to go with single strikes from Gerald Shoetan and Ethan Minix to finish off the scoring.


Lady Panthers third at home tournament

If Thursday’s 7-0 victory for the Liberty Hill girls’ soccer squad over North Lamar in the opener of the Panther Cup is any indication, the Lady Panthers are picking right up where they left off last season. SHANNON HOFMANN PHOTOS As in scoring goals and plenty (TOP) Jaron Frye (#10) scored seven goals in four games during the Panther Cup. (BELOW) Rhett Hofmann (#3) was strong defensively for the Panthers over the weekend. of them. Sophomore forward Emma Stephens and junior striker Piper Tabor led the way with two goals each as the home side easily outclassed their visiting namesakes. Stephens opened the scoring for the Lady Panthers, a goal which was quickly followed by another from Mykenna Russo for an early 2-0 advantage and the Purple-and-Gold only piled on from there. In the 21st minute, Stephens gathered up the ball and broke in on the North Lamar keeper, only to deftly chip the ball over the fallen netminder and in for a 3-0 lead, which was where proceedings stood at the half. However, it didn’t take long at the outset of the second half for Liberty Hill to build on its lead. Tabor scored both of her goals in quick succession in the 41st and 42nd minutes for a 5-0 lead, which were added to by strikes from Athena Brown in the 49th and Mia Macias in the 69th, the latter of which was a speculative effort from outside the area which beat the keeper for the final margin. At the opposite end of the pitch, junior goalkeeper Sam Carter kept a clean sheet, only being forced into a single save and was pleased with the efforts of her teammates in front of her, she said. “A win like this gives our team a lot of confidence,” said Carter. ‘It shows us what we’ve been working on in practice works during a game.” Despite the one-sided scoreline, Liberty Hill head Coach Darren Bauer used the result as a measuring stick moving forward. “We still have a lot of areas we need to work on,” he said. Rachel Stark (#20) moved the ball past a North Lamar player during a 7-0 Liberty Hill victory at “But, I’m happy with how we the Panther Cup on Jan. 2.

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Thursday, January 9, 2020

Runnin’ Panthers extend winning streak

By SCOTT AKANEWICH Sports Editor The Panthers hosted Lorena Tuesday and had little resistance from the visitors in a 6140 victory, their third in a row. Kadin Knight led Liberty Hill with 12 points on the evening, while Walker Baty added 11 and Carson Perkins and Kaleb Bannon each chipped in with nine. The Panthers led 18-5 after one quarter, as Perkins and Knight both hit 3-pointers,

which propelled the home side into a second stanza that saw them carry a 28-15 lead to the half. In the third quarter, the Panthers really came alive offensively, out scoring the Leopards by a 20-9 margin, as Bannon hit a pair of threes in the period, increasing the lead to 48-24. The fourth quarter allowed Liberty Hill head Coach Barry Boren to get his reserves valuable playing time and one


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One of the critical factors in the decision-making process was the overall dynamic of the game compared to others sports, said Regan. “I like the speed of the game and the faster pace it’s played at,” she said. “There’s always a lot going on.” Like any siblings, there is a rivalry that exists between the twins and it extends beyond basketball, said Madison. “We compete to see who can get the best grades in school,” she said. Speaking of school, while the Walkers may wear the same uniform on the court, these days they dress differently off it, but that wasn’t always the case, said Regan. “We used to dress exactly the

kept our shape offensively and defensively today.” Bauer said it was a relief to finally play a meaningful game after four weeks of training and scrimmages. “We love this first weekend of the season – it’s always great,” he said. “Now, we can all start to have fun.” Bauer singled out sophomore defender Alyssa Lee for a job well done on the day. “Alyssa’s not a center back by trade,” he said. “But, she played well and will gain confidence.” Carter said she and her teammates are already beginning to see all their efforts come to fruition. “We showed how our team has really bonded,” she said. “Even with our relationships outside of soccer – we work together.” LHHS 0, Midlothian Heritage 0 Sometimes in soccer, scoring chances are difficult to come by and the 0-0 draw between Liberty Hill and Midlothian Heritage on Friday at Panther Stadium was a perfect example. However, early on in the contest, it looked as if the Lady Panthers would break on top as they bossed possession and kept the Jaguars’ defense off-balance with slick, smooth passing as they attempted to breach the Midlothian goal. But, the home side failed to seriously threaten, with the exception being a Madi Fuller effort in the third minute which was saved by the Jaguars’ keeper. Liberty Hill goalkeeper Sam Carter matched her counterpart at the other end of the pitch and then some, making a series of saves which kept zeros on the scoreboard, as the play shifted in the visitors’ favor after they had weathered


same up until about third or fourth grade,” she said. “Now, we still have all the same clothes, but we never wear the same thing on the same day.” From a culinary standpoint, their likes are similar except for one distinct difference. “I like chocolate and she doesn’t,” said Regan. “But, Mexican food is definitely our favorite food.” Of course, as identical twins, even their voices are the same, which is something they will sometimes exploit in causing a bit of mischief – and it will even work on those who know them better than anyone, she said. “Sometimes, one of us will call home and our parents won’t be able to tell which one

the early Panthers storm and the game was scoreless at the half. Piper Tabor shot wide in the 46th minute, followed by another from Abbey Janicek in the 61st which also missed the net and the rest of the game played out without any serious scoring chances at either end. Bauer said he wasn’t surprised at the lack of scoring in the game. “This is the third time we’ve played them and have had two scoreless draws and a 1-1,” he said. “Every single time, chances are few and far between.” Bauer attributed the offensive stalemate to a similarity between the sides from an organizational standpoint. “Both of our teams are really strict with our midfields,” he said. The Lady Panthers have yet to concede this season after Thursday’s 7-0 victory against North Lamar and Bauer said what he’s seen so far gives him a clearer picture of where he and his squad go from here as they move forward. “We have ideas now of what we want to accomplish,” he said. “We also learned our freshmen are capable of the physicality of the varsity level.” In particular, midfielder/forward Kaylie Fowler, defender/ midfielder Kassidy Contreras and defender Bella Jaimez stood out against Midlothian, said Bauer. “Kaylie played really well today – whenever I tell people she’s only a freshman, they can’t believe it and today she took a giant step forward,” he said. “Kassidy also played well and Bella was really aggressive.” Bauer added the belief of his players in themselves and what they’re capable of con-

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of the ball – if we lost the ball, we would press until we got it back, we shot a lot of threes, got a lot of layups and shot a lot of free throws.” Fast-forward to the present and Boren is now in his 18th season as Liberty Hill head coach and has elevated the system to an art form – using the court as a canvas to paint a picture of discipline, togetherness and intensity. Carson Perkins is a senior point guard on this season’s Panthers and is the trigger man at the controls of the Purple-and-Gold’s high-octane offense. “We always try to be more fast-paced,” said Perkins. “As for me, I have to make decisions quicker in breaking down defenses.” Perkins said it’s usually a matter of the Panthers doing their thing and letting the opposition react in dealing with what unfolds on the court. “Basically, we run our system and it’s more about executing

our game plan,” he said. “It’s all about team play and moving the ball.” However, due to the precision needed to run the Panthers’ system, it’s even more critical for all five players on the court at a given time to be in concert with one another, said Perkins. “When our timing gets thrown off, the plays aren’t executed to their full potential,” he said. “When a play breaks down, then I have to look for driving lanes and an open pass. If that doesn’t work, then I’ll just back it out and reset.” The system is implemented at the lower levels of Liberty Hill basketball, so players are properly indoctrinated long before they reach the highschool level and Perkins is certainly no exception, as he has been running it for seven years – but that doesn’t mean there is ever a mastery, he said. “We’re always adding new stuff, so there’s always learning going on,” said Perkins. “But, of course, there are

player who took advantage was senior JC Russell, who hit a pair of buckets down the stretch in helping the Panthers close the deal and pick up a comfortable victory. Boren was pleased with the balanced scoring he got from his squad. “We have three guys averaging double-figures and several others who are capable of it on any given night,” he said. “Guys like Walker Weems and Hunter Clayton, for example,

which allows our post to just go and get rebounds.” With the business end of the season looming, the veteran bench boss is using these final few non-district games to finetune his club, said Boren. “We’re right on the cusp of district play,” he said. “So, we’re fixing our rotations and getting points from everyone.”

of us is talking,” said Regan. “We can do the same thing with our friends at school.” Both have all the same classes – although not together – but that doesn’t mean the two still don’t spend plenty of time together over the course of an average day. “We’re probably together about 15 hours every day,”said Madison. All of that shared space can sometimes cause friction, she said. “Like recently when she asked me if I had fed our cat and I couldn’t remember,” said Madison. “When something like that happens, we’ll be mad at each other for about 30 minutes, but then we’re good again.”

Perhaps the most distinct difference between the two is which hand each one uses to fire shots at the basket. “I’m left-handed and she’s right-handed,” said Madison. Of course, there will always be common misconceptions about identical twins, said Regan. “People will think we can read each other’s minds,” she said. “But, we can’t.” Despite the fact the Walkers are so close in everything they do, down the road the two will follow their own respective paths, said Regan. “I think at some point, we’ll go our separate ways,” she ALEX RUBIO PHOTO said. “But, it’s always good to Kadin Knight (#12) scored 12 points in the Panthers’ 61-40 have someone to be with.” home victory against Lorena on Jan. 7.

tinues to grow. “Our girls are starting to realize we lost some pretty big players from last year’s team, but they can be just as good if not better,” he said. “Last season, it wasn’t any one player who did it for us.” LHHS 0, Melissa 0 On Saturday morning, the Lady Panthers played their second consecutive scoreless draw in a 0-0 contest against Melissa, as junior goalkeeper Sam Carter recorded a shutout. LHHS 6, Copperas Cove 0 Kaylie Fowler is only a freshman, but you wouldn’t have known it as the Lady Panthers’ striker scored a hat trick in a 6-0 victory against Copperas Cove on Saturday. In the 10th minute, Fowler got on the end of an Emma Stephens corner kick to just head the ball over the crossbar and only two minutes later, Stephens broke in on goal and coolly slotted home low to the keeper’s left for a 1-0 Liberty Hill lead in the 12th minute. Fowler had her third chance at goal in the 14th minute, then scored her first varsity goal only a minute later, connecting on a Stephens cross for a 2-0 Lady Panthers advantage. At this point in the proceedings, the chances were coming thick and fast for the home side, as Bryden Bourgeois tried her luck from distance in the 16th minute before Madi Fuller to be in on goal only to be stopped by a smart tackle in the area in the 17th. However, it was only a matter of time before the Purple-andGold broke through the Copperas Cove defense and it was midfielder Mykenna Russo who did the honors, netting in the 21st minute for a 3-0 lead. Mia Macias was in alone in the 33rd minute, only for the keeper to smother the ball, but not before a collision which

certain staple plays we have which I really know well by now.” Perkins said there’s nothing quite like when the Panthers’ system is firing on all cylinders. “When we’re really clicking, it’s great,” he said. “We’re making shots and running through our entire offense – it sets the pace of the game and even when we turn the ball over, we get it right back.” But, offense is only half of the game. The intensity is ratcheted up even more on the defensive end of the court – which is the entire floor, by the way. “We’re constantly trying to get in the passing lanes on defense,” said Perkins. “We’re always moving.” All that constant frenetic motion tends to take its toll – not only on the opposition, but on the Panthers as well, which is why fitness is even more critical than for a team which runs an orthodox system, he said.

LHHS 54, St. Michael’s 50 On Jan. 3, the Panthers faced a road game against St. Mi-

chael’s and emerged with a 54-50 victory, as Perkins led the way with 15 points, while Baty added 12 and Knight 10. The visitors got out to an 1812 lead after one quarter, as Perkins hit a trio of 3-pointers out of the gate and following a strong second quarter, the Panthers had a 29-19 halftime lead. Liberty Hill led 41-34 after

three, but were outscored 1613 in the fourth by the Crusaders. However, the Panthers hit 10-of-15 free throws down the stretch, which provided the winning margin. Liberty Hill (16-6) will next face Wimberley at home on Jan. 10 before opening district play at Salado on Jan. 17.


Kailey Fowler (#9) scored a hat trick in the Lady Panthers’ 6-0 win against Copperas Cove. sent both players sprawling on the surface. Fowler then scored her second of the contest in the 35th minute with a smooth finish and a 4-0 halftime lead for the Lady Panthers. Once the game re-started, it didn’t take very long for Fowler to finish off her hat trick, as she scored in the 36th minute for a 5-0 lead before Piper Tabor closed out the scoring with a goal in the 50th minute to provide the final margin. Fowler said as soon as she scored her first goal of the game, it made her hungry for additional scoring. “When I score a goal, it makes me want to get more and more,” she said. “Getting a hat trick feels really good because I’m only a freshman.”

According to Bauer, Fowler is only beginning to scratch the surface of what she’s truly capable of. “Kaylie keeps building in confidence,” said Bauer. “She’s learning how we want to play and that she needs to play that way not only when she wants to, but when she needs to. But, she’s only a freshman and has four entire years to continue to grow as a player.” The Lady Panthers have yet to concede a goal this season through the first four games and have outscored the opposition by a 13-0 margin, including a pair of scoreless draws against Midlothian Heritage and Melissa in the middle two games of the Panther Cup this weekend. Bauer said his squad pro-

duced a mixed bag of results despite remaining unbeaten. “We struggled and we had some strong games,” he said. “But, we’ve identified areas which we need to tighten up.” Putting to good use during games what is worked through on the training ground is a big part of his team’s early-season progression, said Bauer. “They’re beginning to understand some of the things we’ve been working on in practice,” he said. “Which is the big thing we take from this weekend – taking steps forward because it’s not how you play in January that matters, it’s how you play in district and the playoffs.” Liberty Hill (2-0-2) will next play in the Grizzly Classic in Leander on Jan. 9-11.

“Now that I’m conditioned, I’m used to it,” said Perkins. “But, at the beginning of the season, I wasn’t in basketball shape and you can’t really replicate the running you do in games in practice.” When Boren first instituted his system all those years ago, he knew he had to rotate his players in rapid fashion in order to keep them fresh late in games, something he still does – but not as he once did, he said. “We would substitute systematically and have our players out there for two-and-a-half or three-minute increments,” he said. “But, we’ve adjusted that over the years.” Boren reiterated the synergy necessary to ensure everything comes off without a hitch. “Everybody has to work in sequence,” he said. “You’re only as strong as your weakest link, which is why we constantly put ourselves in those positions in practice so we can establish a rhythm of play be-

cause our offense is only good when the ball moves – it’s kind of like dancing – you can’t dance without rhythm.” Naturally, there are always naysayers who question whether or not the system is a practical way to play the game, but Boren doesn’t give them any credence. “There are people who say you can’t sustain playing that way,” he said. “Sure, it’s a possibility, but I look at our football team and how they do things – it’s all based on the kind of athletes you have.” Boren said earlier in his coaching career, he used to require a certain number of passes before a shot was taken or only allow two dribbles before shooting, but most important is he wants the right players taking aim at the basket, he said. “Bottom line is we want our shooters to be taking shots,” said Boren. The veteran coach recalled how in his first season at Lib-

erty Hill, things didn’t go so well, but it wasn’t long before the tables turned in a favorable direction. “Our first year here, we were 4-19,” he said. “But, I told our parents before the last game of the season their sons were practicing just as hard at the end of the season as at the beginning – there was real buyin. The next season we were 28-8.” Ever since, Boren’s teams have been unflappable, making the playoffs for 16 consecutive seasons, including 12 district championships. So, apparently, the system works. After all these years, he’s not going to change any time soon, he said. “It’s not that I can’t teach half-court, man-to-man basketball,” he said. “But, in the end, I don’t know if we would be good enough.”

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