After a long offseason of training, the Pelion Panthers are ready for a comeback.
“They have been one of the most dedicated teams I have worked with. You could really tell that everybody is ready to erase the memory of last season,” said coach Ben Freeman, whose team finished 2-9 and without a region victory in 2011.
There are encouraging signs for the Panthers.
“We have a pretty good idea of what we want to do on offense, as far as showing diversity and balance,” Freeman said.
Left tackle Nathan Middleswarth is expected to be a leader on the offensive line.
“He is the anchor on the line for us and we feel he should be able to do what we need as far as leading that group,” Freeman said.
New at quarterback is Zach Hawkins, who has shown promise in the preseason. One of his prime targets will be sophomore wide receiver Freddie Phillips.
A highlight of the offense is senior Carlton Richard, who is set to make big contributions on offense and defense for the Panthers.
“Carlton is one of those guys you need five or six of on the field because he does so many things,” he said.
Richard looks to step in as the primary back in the Panthers’ running game and will also line up at wide receiver with Phillips. He also is set to reprise his role as outside linebacker, where he was one of the team’s leading tacklers last season.
“It’s something I’m kind of used to now and I’m not too concerned about it,” Richard said. “I just enjoy that my team needs me and I want to help them out wherever I can.”
Senior Mark Vuocolo, a 190-pounder, moved to linebacker on defense after working at offensive guard last season.
“Defensively, we’re still looking for someone to be a consistent stopper, and we’ve got some candidates for that but we’re still waiting to see,” Freeman said.
Though the Panthers still have some fine tuning to do, Freeman said, “I feel like we’re going to be pretty well ready when the season starts next week.”