Panthers excited about season, new home field

by Mark Cheffey

There is a lot of new, but still a lot of the old for the 2020 PHS varsity football season.

Yes, there are a lot of returning players who will be utilizing the same offensive and defensive schemes, and, of course, Head Coach Kevin Miles, who enters his 10th year leading the Panthers.

But, there are some new assistant coaches and starting players, not to mention a brand new football field to play on.

Oh, yes, and the team has to deal with new challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It hasn’t been horrible, but the kids have been amazing,” said Coach Kevin Miles following two weeks of pre-season practice.

“The biggest thing is just reminding them to try to stay away from each other and and pull their mask up after they have caught their breath.”

The pandemic changed things during the off-season as well, but Miles said it still went well. 

“We did a lot of senior led stuff that we felt went really well,” Miles said. “We have really good leadership with this group of seniors. We asked a lot of them, and they responded with the superb leadership.”

Yes, Miles said there are many new faces filling spots that were vacated after some long tenures, but Miles said they are not exactly new to coaching.

“At least most of them have come from the program, either playing for me or have been volunteers in the program,” Miles said. “The only complete newbie is Steven Jones, and he played college offensive lineman, so what he brought to the table was irreplaceable and well worth the late start.”

The rest of the coaching staff, some of them volunteers, covering varsity, junior varsity, freshmen and middle school includes Tyler Krietemeyer, Shannon Haerr, Mark Loman, Mark Hoerr, Ryan Wood, Mark Lickfeld, Grant O’Bryan, Zach Jones, A.J. O’Brien, Will Funkenbush and Tommy Hendren. 

Overshadowing it all, though, are the new facilities as the 2020 team inaugurates the new high school football field and facilities, which could be the envy of many.

“We are super excited about the beautiful stadium and can’t wait until we get the chance to play here week three,” Miles said. “They are amazing facilities, and it will be one of they best fields and stadiums around.”

As for the team itself, the offense will be led by a new starting quarterback in Brody Lehenebauer, who fills the shoes of his big brother, Corder, who has gone on to college.

Coach Miles is excited to have Brody taking over, too.

“We are lucky that Brody got a lot of time leading this team last summer and has been around these guys for a while,” Miles said. “We seem to have good timing and things appear to connecting well.”

As for the rest of the cast, which includes 59 players led by 11 seniors, Miles is hopeful of success.

“We feel pretty good about what we have to offer for the season,” Miles said. “We just have to stay healthy and continue to improve with each game.  

“Nothing comes easy in the CCC and we have to take each game as it comes and play hard and better every week.”

Lehenbauer has seven returning offensive starters, all seniors, to depend upon including running backs, Peyton Timbrook, and Wade Begley; all-state tight end, Abe Haerr, wide receiver Zane Meyers and linemen, Josh Lickfeld, Luke Triplett and all-stater, Weston King.

Hopeful of seeing varsity action on offense are Ross Arch, a senior running back; Hayes Miller, a sophomore wide receiver; senior tight ends Quade Plunkett and Adam Goodwin; Braden Madden, a sophomore lineman; Chance Davis, a senior lineman; Devin Edmunds, a senior lineman; Landon Smith, a senior wide reciever; Dylan Epperson, a senior wide receiver; and Colin Arch, a sophomore quarterback.

Returning defensive starters include linemen Lickfeld and King, an all-stater; linebackers Timbrook, Begley and Haerr;  and Meyers, a safety.

Expected new starters on defense include Ross Arch, a safety, Miller a defensive back; linemen, Triplett, Plunkett, Madden, Edmunds and Davis; and defensive backs, Colin Arch, Smith and Epperson. 

It’s a jumbled-up schedule this season with the Monroe City game coming in week five and the Centralia contest ending the regular season.

Even the Clarence Cannon Conference teams themselves are in flux, making it difficult to pick a clear winner. 

“It will be interesting. A lot of good players graduated last year off all the teams,” Miles said.