By Mike Craven, FNF Coaches Contributing Writer
Coaching Profile: Jerry Vance
Team: Liberty Hill (TX)
Jerry Vance built a dynasty of old-school football thirty miles outside of Austin. Liberty Hill’s emergence as a football powerhouse during the mid-2000’s wasn’t built on a ton of talent, showmanship or flare. He did it the right way – his way. His overall record as the head coach is 156-53.
“The first step is to get the kids to believe in what you’re doing. What we do [offensively] is so different. We needed to win right away. We needed to show them it would work,” Vance said. “We had a chance to be in the playoffs our first year. That was big for us. We kept learning from there.”
The Panthers won back-to-back state championships in 2006 and 2007, reaching the semifinals the year before and the year after his team’s collected rings. Vance wins football games. His Panthers took 2015 Class 4A Division I champion Waco La Vega to overtime in the regional finals, losing 6-0.
“We don’t have great big kids. There isn’t a lot of 4.4-speed at Liberty Hill,” Vance said. “What we do lends itself to the average high school kid. It’s not about being bigger or taller or even faster. What we do is about execution. We do what works for us.”
And if that sounds like a complaint, it isn’t.
“I’d struggle to coach the elite kids. I do better with the workmanlike football player with us running an unselfish system on offense and defense. We don’t need a back to carry the ball 30 times for us to win a game,” Vance said. “If we’re willing to work hard, we’ll be successful. It isn’t about the individual. It never has been. That’s why we win.”
Liberty Hill was the perfect fit — a workman-like rural town on Highway 281 between Georgetown and Burnet. The Panthers suffered through a long-spell of losing before Vance’s arrival from a previous stop as a coordinator at San Marcos High School.
“I’m not a rah-rah guy. If I need to get you excited for a game, you’re doing the wrong thing. We don’t have 1,000 jersey combinations or anything like that,” Vance said. “Liberty Hill ended up being the perfect place for me, as a coach and for my family. It felt like the right fit when we took the job and it ended up being the perfect situation. I was fortunate, no doubt about it.”