By Scott Akanewich

Two years ago at this time, Reid Bynum was holding practice dummies for Liberty Hill’s varsity football team as they got ready for the playoffs.

Not glamorous work, by any means, but a task he was willing to do with one eye on the future.

“At the time, I looked at it as a rite of passage,” said Bynum, who starts at inside linebacker for the Panthers. “I knew I still needed to build up my skills to be varsity-worthy.”

In the time since, Bynum has certainly done just that and much more since moving up to the varsity last season as a junior, when he also played on the offensive line in addition to his linebacker duties.

However, this year he’s been strictly a defender and is currently second on the squad with 105 tackles on the current campaign in averaging 10.5 stops per game.

Another statistical department in which Bynum is tied for the lead is takeaways, with an interception and a pair of fumble recoveries to his credit, both of which occurred Nov. 5 in Liberty Hill’s 59-0 home win over Northeast in the regular-season finale.

Bynum said when defensive players get to shine by getting their hands on the ball in a positive manner, it’s good to get some credit where it’s due.

“Plays like that are a chance for us to get some glory,” he said. “Everyone always usually looks at the running backs and what they do.”

When a loose ball is on the ground with a mass of humanity heaving itself toward the pigskin with extreme prejudice and designs to claim it, a split-second decision must be made – try to pick it up and run with it or just jump on the ball.

Sometimes the proper course of action is clear, while at other times, not exactly – a conundrum Bynum found himself in on his first recovery of the evening, he said.

“On the second one, I was just going to dive on it,” said Bynum. “But, on the first one, there was chance for a scoop, but instead I decided to shield the running back from the ball and jump on it.”

Either way, taking the ball away from the grasp of the opposition is certainly good enough, whether the ball can be returned or not.

“I have confidence in our offense to be able to score points,” he said.

Lined up alongside Bynum is fellow senior Andon Thomas, a teammate who makes everyone around him better, he said.

“Andon is the most intelligent guy I’ve ever had the blessing of playing with,” said Bynum.

Head coach Kent Walker said the duo is a formidable force for offenses to deal with.

“Reid complements Andon really well,” said Walker. “He just always finds himself around the ball a lot and that’s because he’s so coachable. As this year’s gone on, he’s continued to get better.”

Bynum said he’s pleased to be playing defense exclusively.

“Linebacker feels more natural for me,” he said. “I have a better understanding of what I need to do and I also like to hit people.”

Speaking of physical contact, Bynum said he uses the chance to put a hat on someone when he’s on the gridiron to perhaps release any frustration he may be feeling at a given moment – for whatever reason, he said.

“It’s definitely a way for me to channel aggression,” said Bynum. “Whether it’s because I flunked a test, just had an argument with a friend or whatever.”

Following the Northeast game, the Liberty Hill band put on its tribute to late Panthers head coach Jeff Walker and Bynum was running to and fro looking for the Purple-and-Gold flag that is part of the team’s entrance onto the field for use during the performance.

Finally, he was able to secure it and all was well, but that’s just Bynum in a nutshell, said Walker.

“More than anything, Reid is a pleaser,” he said. “He wants to do well, so you can ask him to do anything.”

As his high school playing career approaches its end, Bynum is making sure to soak in every last drop of the experience as he and his teammates head into the playoffs.

“The fact it’s going to end soon is both humbling and heartbreaking,” he said. “You’ve been working so long for this – your senior season of football. I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to feel when it’s over. But, it’s been a great way to grow up.”