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Inside the Chrome Dome (archive August 2006)

Please refer to the Inside the Chrome Dome main page for columns published in other issues.




 Panther Leaders Emerging as Team Finds Its Identity

The rumor started circulating around town last Wednesday night. Panther football coach Bob Prescott had walked out on his team during practice.

The Panthers had been having a particularly bad practice and the coaches were all becoming frustrated. Coach Prescott left the practice field and went back into the intermediate school, sitting down in the coach's office with some of his assistants. At least that was the word circulating around some corners of the community.

There is a little bit of truth to that rumor. The staff- all but one assistant - did leave the field after the coach talked for about 20 minutes. They had discussed in detail some of the sacrifices it takes to put forth full effort for four quarters of football.

"One of the things this coaching staff had been battling since summer camp was the identity of this team," Prescott said. "These guys didn't know who they were. They had been living in the shadows of last year's team.

"Things are being done differently now and it's been a big adjustment that some guys have been slower to accept than others. Last Wednesday was a particularly bad day of practice and after I talked to them, I told them practice was over."

That's when the team's personality started to come into focus. The seniors stepped into their roles as leaders and said practice wasn't over.

They weren't happy with how things had unfolded that day. The seniors kept the team on the field.

Prescott left one assistant on the field, but only to observe. The seniors conducted the rest of the practice. After the workout, the seniors reported to their coach in his office.

It was a move Prescott had been seeking for weeks.

"That's the leadership we were looking for and it emerged," he smiled. "The mindset has started to change and that showed Friday night. This isn't last year's team - those guys are gone.

"I told them 'This is it. This is the team that's going to get it done.' They raised the level of intensity and focus. Friday night there were a lot of things done on that field that didn't get done against Centerville."

The team without an identity first found its leaders and then found its way. They became the 2006 Panthers, emerging from the shadow of last year's state runner-up squad, and making Hagerstown pay the price.

Anyone who attended the game would agree that the Tigers were very fortunate. If it weren't for a couple of fumbles and secondary mishaps, the score could easily have been 49-0.

Call it night and day, black and white or whatever you want to call it, but the Panthers didn't look like the same team that took the field in the opener against Centerville the week before.

"We improved from the time we opened camp until the scrimmage against Union County," Prescott said. "We improved more from the scrimmage to the Centerville game.

"But against Hagerstown, we made the biggest improvement. The key was that senior leadership emerging and this team starting to find itself."

Before Friday night's game, I spoke briefly with Prescott. He wasn't sure how his team would react to the game situation after undergoing that slight maturing process at Wednesday's practice.

It didn't take long for that question to be answered.

After the game, Prescott gathered his players on the field.

"We talked all week about playing for the full four quarters," he said. "It wasn't perfect football but it was so much better. What can we be if we continue to improve like this every week?"

Last Friday's game results made that question a lot more interesting.



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