Change is coming to Liberty Hill athletics beginning next school year, as the expected jump from Class 4A to Class 5A has now become a reality.
The cutoff for Class 5A is now 1,210 and with a high school enrollment of 1,343, the Panthers are now moving up to a bigger sports neighborhood.
According to Liberty Hill Athletic Director and head football Coach Jeff Walker, he and his entire staff of coaches across all sports have properly anticipated the move.
“All of our coaches knew what was coming and we’ve been preparing for it,” said Walker. “We’ve been playing Class 5A and 6A teams all along because we’ve wanted good competition.”
With the explosive growth in the Liberty Hill area over the past decade, the change was going to happen – it was just a matter of when, said Walker.
“It’s certainly come faster than we expected,” he said. “But, we won’t lower our expectations.”
Panthers head boys basketball Coach Barry Boren believes the change won’t have as profound an impact as it might seem to on the surface, he said.
“I think for many years now, our non-district schedule has been tougher than our district,” said Boren. “So, our district hasn’t been getting us ready for the postseason.”
Boren added although Liberty Hill will suddenly be the proverbial smaller fish in a bigger pond, there are resources at its disposal to help combat any negative aspects of being up against bigger schools.
“As it stands right now, we’ve got more numbers coming out for sports in our program than some bigger schools do,” he said. “We also have kids who play their sport year-round.”
The last point is one that Walker also believes will help the Panthers remain competitive, he said.
“We already have kids who have been choosing one sport once they get to high school,” said Walker. “So, our kids have already been thinking that way and I think it’s going to pay off.”
Walker is realistic about the dynamics of the reclassification process and the results that come from it, he said.
“Sports is a numbers game,” said Walker. “For example, if we have three good running backs on our football team, then a school with twice as many kids is probably going to have six good ones.”
For Walker, who has seen Liberty Hill grow firsthand from when he first arrived as an assistant football coach to its present size upon his return three years ago, he knows now as he did then, moving up in class is the future and the future is now.
“We better get used to it because there’s no going back,” he said. “But, that’s why I’m here. Liberty Hill is a great town with all kinds of support from the community. We’ll just have to step up our game and have fun doing it.”
As far as any kind of adjustment period, Walker’s having none of it.
“It’ll be challenging, but I don’t really think we’ll miss a beat,” he said. “As an athletic director, I’m excited about it because I always want challenges – it builds character.”