Rebuilding is a word seldom used by coaches at Batesburg-Leesville, and for good reason.
The Panthers never seem to be doomed by personnel losses. Take the 2003 season, for instance. B-L, with Courtney McInnis replacing legendary coach Phil Strickland, the Panthers stumbled through a 4-6 regular season, but ended up advancing to the Class 2A state championship game.
This fall, the latest B-L edition will be young and generally inexperienced with the loss of many 2007 stars, including tailback Josh Harris, quarterback Jerold Jones, receivers Mario Walters and Karone Coleman, offensive lineman Daniel Shoemaker and defensive back Jamar Jones to name a few. In all, seven starters are gone on offense, four on defense.
The veteran core should feature linebacker Demetrius Robinson and Michael Shealy, defensive lineman Ben Trotter and offensive lineman Justin Quattlebaum.
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Robinson and Trotter were first team all-region selections last season. Robinson led the team with 125 tackles.
The Panthers went 10-3 last season and lost in the Upper State semifinals for the second year in a row. Retaining the Region 3-2A championship will be a challenge with a significant upgrade in the competition thanks to realignment that has added Strom Thurmond (down from 3A) and Gilbert to the mix. Mid-Carolina returns many top hands off last season’s turnaround team. Newberry is young, but is always tough.
The Panthers open the season at Lexington on Aug. 29 in the long-awaited revival of a traditional county rivalry.