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by Mark Cheffey
The PHS Panther football team lost four all-state players among a large group of talented seniors to graduation after last year’s 12-1 season, but don’t start thinking its time to rebuild.
While it may take a few games to get rolling, this year’s Panther squad is expected to be competitive again come district time thanks to last season’s team depth as well as some key returning starters ready to take over leadership rolls.
“The guys last year were dudes,” said Coach Kevin Miles of the core of last year’s semifinalists which included all-staters Weston King, Abe Haerr, Brody Lehenbauer and Ross Arch.
“All these guys were couple-of-year starters and did a lot,” Miles said. “We do this every year. It seems like we graduate a lot of guys. But, we expect the next guys to step up and be ready to go.
“I think this group is ready to go. They’ve put the time in, and we hope they’re ready to step up and be the guys we need them to be.”
First out of Miles’ mouth were the senior line duo of all-stater Luke Triplett (6-2, 235) and all-district Brayden Madden (5-10, 215).
Triplett, a center, is slated to play both sides of the ball this year after being limited to the O-line due to injuries last season, while Madden, a guard will do the same.
“Madden could have been conference defensive player of the year if he hadn’t played behind Weston King,” Miles said.
The defense will be bolstered too, by the return of senior linebackers Nolyn Richards and Adam Goodwin who saw considerable action due to injuries to others.
“We were hurt by losing Peyton Timbrook to injury, but it benefited us because they got to play,” Miles said.
The defensive backfield also has valuable senior experience returning in Landyn Smith, an all-state defensive back, and Collin Arch, who made all-district.
“Those two guys were instrumental to our defense last year,” said Miles, who indicated the defense “looks solid.”
While the offenses might need a little more time to develope and may not be as potent as last year’s juggernaut, Miles said he has plenty of weapons this year.
Arch will be backed up at quarterback by sophomore, Aaron Ritchey, and Richards, at 6-1, 225 looks to be a load at running back, along with Alex Wilson.
Then there are four speedsters in Smith, senior, Christian Johnson and juniors Hayes Miller and Ryan McKeown.
“These four guys are pretty darn quick,” Miles said before adding a sophomore, Carter Crane into the group.
Ethan Redd, a junior wide receiver, and tight ends senior, Adam Goodwin, and junior Noah Welty round out the offensive weapons.
The remaining line positions will be filled by seniors, Noah Getz and Nick Erwin, and junior, Jose Juarez, and sophomore Gage Barnett.
The offense will be much the same with a mixture of no-huddle and under center.
“For the most part, we are going to be a spread team that likes to run multiple looks to keep the defense on their toes with lots of different formations,” Miles said.
It would be difficult to match the record-breaking passing games of the last two seasons, and Miles said he expects the running game to be dominant this year, but the team will still air it out sometimes.
“Colin is a lot more of an option running type of quarterback, but the passing game will still be instrumental, because we do have some good wide receivers, and Colin throws a pretty good ball,” Miles said.
The Panthers will be tested early as they face Hallsville this Friday, followed by Bowling Green, also at home, the following week.
Circumstances will also keep some of the starters out in the first two games as well, making the beginning a little more rough going.
However, Miles expects his team to improve and be in the mix for a conference title with Monroe City appearing to be the team everyone will be going after.
“I think the conference will be very interesting,” Miles said.
The coaching staff is mostly intact from last year, with two additions in Nick Powell, a Panther alum who will coach the freshmen team, and Brian Rea, who will help out on the junior high level.
As it was last year, COVID-19 will also be an adversary to avoid. But Miles said he hopes his team will be as vigilant this year as it was last year in keeping the team active. Numerous teams in the area and across the state had to forfeit games due to COVID outbreaks, but Palmyra did not.
“I think a lot of it was the kids,” Miles said. “They committed and did things right, and hopefully this group of kids see that,” Miles said.
They will have to be since Marion County is currently listed as the No. 1 county in the state for transmission rate of the virus.
2021 PHS Varsity
8/27 Hallsville 7 p.m.
9/3 Bowl. Green 7 p.m.
9/10 at Macon 7 p.m.
9/17 Brookfield 7 p.m.
9/24 at Monroe City 7 p.m.
10/1 Clark Co. 7 p.m.
10/8 at High. 7 p.m.
10/15 S. Shelby 7 p.m.
10/22 at Centralia 7 p.m.
10/29 District TBA 7 p.m.
2021 PHS JV
8/30 Hannibal 6 p.m.
9/7 at Centralia 6 p.m.
9/13 at Monroe City 6 p.m.
9/20 at Highland 6 p.m.
9/27 Macon 6 p.m.
10/4 at S. Shelby 6 p.m.
10/11 Bowl. Gr. 6 p.m.
10/18 at Clark Co. 6 p.m.
2021 PHS Freshmen
9/9 at Centralia 6 p.m.
9/16 Macon 6 p.m.
9/23 at Clark Co. 6 p.m.
9/30 Mexico 6 p.m.
10/6 at QHS 6 p.m.
10/14 at QND 6 p.m.
2021 Palmyra Middle School Football Schedule
9/7 8-7 Brook. 5 p.m.
9/14 8-7 Cent. 5 p.m.
9/21 8-7 at Han. 5 p.m.
9/28 7-8 at Clark Co. 5 p.m.
10/5 8-7 Macon 5 p.m.
10/12 8-7 at S. Shelby 6 p.m.