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A Tale of Two Seasons for Panthers
One year ago, Knightstown’s football team opened the season against a veteran Centerville Bulldog 11, and had it handed to them.
A new coach, a much more demanding system, and the loss of 20 seniors from the year before made for a difficult road ahead. Few expected much from those 2006 Panthers, and after a couple of early season wins over weak Wes-Del and Hagerstown teams, reality set in.
The no-huddle option offense occasionally resembled mass confusion. Blocking assignments were missed, players ran wrong patters, and about every third play was a broken play.
The Panthers headed into the difficult part of the schedule with a 2-1 record, and emerged with a five-game losing streak and a 2-6 mark. In those five games the team was outscored 144-46, and was blown out by North Decatur, Tri High and Lapel.
In between, they played a couple of pretty good games in losing to Shenandoah and Eastern Hancock. But the transition to Coach Bob Prescott’s schemes on both offense and defense still wasn’t complete.
Tri-Central came to town and provided the needed medicine to cure the team’s ailments. Suddenly, the system Prescott had been teaching worked. Players stopped missing tackles and assignments. The Panthers won the game 48-0, and the team’s confidence level took a sudden leap.
They would go on to defeat a good Northeastern team 29-6 in the sectional, and one week later avenge an earlier 35-14 whipping by knocking off Tri High 32-29. They lost in the sectional championship to Eastern Hancock.
This Friday, a lot of key players in that late-season run will return to the football field with an entirely different perspective. Instead of trying to understand the no-huddle option, senior quarterback Joe Haase has learned to master it.
He may very well be the best all-around athlete Knightstown has ever had at the quarterback position, and that’s putting him at the top of some pretty talented company. Eric Freeman, Mark Lawrence and Galen Thomas, just to name a few, didn’t bring to the table as complete a package.
Haase will be the leader of an offense that is capable of being as explosive a unit as that 2005 state finals team, if the offensive line develops. There’s a lot of work needed there.
Fullback Trey McColley is one of the top returning running backs in the state. Teams will key on stopping him, and Haase with make them pay with an array of weapons that option attack gives him. The backfield is full of talent and is deeper than any I’ve ever seen at KHS, with no fewer than seven strong backs to compliment McColley. And Haase, who is much stronger and quicker this season, is as good a runner as any back in the area. He also brings to the field a great arm that is on target most of the time, and he has dangerous receiving weapons in tight end Brett Morris and split ends Ethan Pearson, Levi Blair, Kenton Lane and Anthony Forshey.
Tackle Kyle Freeman will prove to be one of the best in Class 2A this year, and his supporting cast, including Zach Lake and Dillon Silver, will be better than most people think. They need to stay healthy.
There are also a slew of sophomores who are big and very quick, and Panther fans will see them contribute at a level rarely seen from such young kids.
This year’s team is not as big as the 2005 Panthers, and certainly not as big as the 1997 squad that also went to the state final. But they are much faster than either of those teams, and could make a lot of noise in the state tournament this year.
Assuming they stay healthy – which is crucial due to a lack of depth on both offensive and defensive lines – this Panther team could be one of the most entertaining we’ve seen in a long time. As they showed in the scrimmage against Union County, the team will be capable of quick-strike scoring every time they get the ball.
Depth and size are the biggest concerns.
Friday night will be a major test for the Panthers, especially on the defensive side. Centerville will be one of the best three teams on the Knightstown schedule this season. They return much offensive talent, and their quarterback and primary running back tormented the Panthers last season. The game could turn into a scoring fest.
This is a season opener you definitely don’t want to miss.
I would like to take this opportunity to apologize publicly to Coach Prescott and his wife Laura. Last Wednesday, a storm blew through Knightstown and a large tree in my front yard was apparently struck by lightning. The tree ended up on the Prescott family’s house, knocking out their electricity and causing considerable damage.
I felt really bad about that, but there was a silver lining to the tragedy.
A very large number of people showed up to help clean up the yards and remove the tree, enabling the power to be restored the following day. It was a very impressive show of community support, and made me pretty proud to be from Knightstown. Great job by all of those folks.
Also, we may have made the record book. According to HoosierAuthority.com managing editor Shawn Aylsworth, that’s the first time in Indiana High School football history that a sports editor’s tree fell on a high school football coach’s house.
Woo hoo! A new record before the first snap.
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