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 Undersized Panthers to Rely on Speed, Experience; Knightstown Has Veterans Returning at Skilled Positions

August 20, 2008 - Coach Bob Prescott has a challenging task ahead of him this football season. He has an undersized group – there are no starters exceeding 200 pounds – and has to replace nine seniors who graduated last spring, including the entire offensive line.

But it’s not all gloom and doom for the red and black this season. The Panthers have a considerable amount of talent returning at the skilled positions, and will be a much quicker squad than the coach’s first two teams at Knightstown.

The Panthers played Union County in a scrimmage last Friday, for the most part earning a draw as both teams scored four times.

Prescott and his coaching staff left the field with positives to build on and negatives to learn from.

“Overall I thought it was a pretty good night,” Prescott said. “We’re a young team and all five of our offensive linemen have no Friday night starts. But our pass protection was pretty good. Union County plays the same style of defense that we play and they sent a lot of people on every down. We responded well to that for the most part.”

Knightstown entered the scrimmage with a simple game plan and the coaching staff was looking for intensity and execution.

“We used the script we had set up before the scrimmage and it worked,” Prescott said. “There were probably more negative executed plays than those that went well, but we got better and better as the scrimmage went on.”

The maturing of the offensive line will be a key factor if Knightstown is to have success on the gridiron this season. Sophomore Wes Hammer (6-1, 192 lbs.) and senior Jacob Wooldridge (5-9, 193) will be on the left side. Junior Nick Hochstedler (6-2, 181) will snap the ball, junior Cory Wisehart (6-2, 185) and junior Ethan Paul (6-2, 195) will be on the right side. Sophomores Ben Angel (5-10, 275) and Cory Cox will see plenty of minutes as backups.

Senior Ethan Pearson, junior Drew Martin, senior Kelton Lane, sophomore Collin Kennedy and juniors Anthony Forshey and Travis Titus will likely be the primary targets of the passing game from split end positions.

As a backup plan, Prescott has also been working with the Forshey twins, Anthony and Aaron, in multiple positions. Both will start defensively – Anthony at defensive end and Aaron at outside linebacker – and both will also see action on the offensive line, possibly running or catching the ball, and potentially anything else the coach needs from the multi-talented duo.

“They both just have a great mindset,” Prescott said. “They are both more than willing to do whatever it takes and make sacrifices for the betterment of the team. They are truly team players.”

Anthony is 5-11, 162 lbs., while Aaron is 5-11 and 166. Both are strong, quick and versatile.

Offensively, the team’s strength will be in the primary skilled positions. Senior quarterback Brice Biehl had to take over for Joe Haase last season and had his good and bad days. But this year, Biehl (5-10, 149) is two inches taller and 10 pounds heavier. He is displaying more leadership and throwing the ball extremely well. He’s also dangerously quick and comes into the season with nine starts at the position under his belt.

Sophomore Nolan Hall (5-11, 143) has been competing for the quarterback job and will see plenty of reps at the position.

“Depth-wise, we need everyone to learn two positions,” Prescott said. “Brice also plays safety on defense, and we’ll use him to return punts and kickoffs. He’ll need some breathers on offense and Nolan will be able to step in and do the job.”

Knightstown’s backfield could be one of the best in the area. Led by sophomore fullback Lane Fields (6-2, 193), the Panthers backfield has toughness and speed. Fields will be joined by sophomore Danny Ortman (5-11, 169) and junior Levi Blair (5-10, 161) in the three-man backfield, and all played considerably last season after Trey McColley went down with his injury.

Ethan Pearson and the Forsheys could also see ball-carrying duties.

Defensively, Knightstown lost all three starting linebackers, and that’s the biggest concern of the coaching staff. But the players who will step into those roles this year all played defense last season and all have the speed to play the position.

Junior Zach Sanders (5-11, 184) will rotate at all three linebacker slots. Aaron Forshey and Pearson, as well as Cody Wisehart, Fields and Ortman, will share those defensive duties.

Anthony Forshey returns at defensive end, where he started as a sophomore last year. Hochstedler also started at defensive end, giving the Panthers two experienced pass rushers.

Jordan Back and Wooldridge will play defensive tackle. Although they are not big, they are both very quick off the ball. Senior Josh Daniels could see some minutes as well.

Titus and Kelton Lane return as the cornerbacks and Biehl will be the safety.

Missing from the roster are two starters from last season who will not be able to play this year due to injuries. Dillon Silver suffers from a degenerative disk, and Luke Hochstedler is still recovering from injuries he sustained in an automobile accident earlier this year. They are both out for the year.

Prescott knows his team will be up against the elements when they face a very big opponent, but still likes the Panthers’ speed and experience at the skilled positions.

“We understand that there are going to be some Friday nights that we will give up lots of yardage,” Prescott said. “Offensively, we want to keep the ball in our hands. We’ll be using the shotgun because that gives us more options and also gives us a better look at the field.”

Knightstown completed the two-a-day workouts last week, just before the scrimmage against Union County. The team held its annual camp out and meal, and that gave both the players and coaches an opportunity to reflect on the grueling workouts in preparation for the season.

“We have really enjoyed these guys,” Prescott said. “Everyone remembers last year and the way the season ended (Knightstown lost its last three games, including 60-20 in the playoffs). We had some of the seniors addressing the team and they made it clear that this year was not going to be a repeat of last season.

“We held leadership classes over the summer and had 18 kids participate,” Prescott said. “The entire team has been very positive in the approach to practices. We’ve had issues arise with players and coaches, and we’ve addressed those. The kids have had great attitudes and they are understanding the big picture and the concept of team.”

 

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