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by Mark Cheffey
If this year’s PHS football team were a television show, it might be Growing Pains, but then again they may stream as A League of Their Own.
They are young, but that doesn’t mean their coach isn’t high on them or they could still go far.
“We’re going to have some growing pains early, but I really like this group and the things that have happened in the first week to this point,” said Coach Kevin Miles. “The effort has been good. The attitude has been good. And, the kids have really been working hard.”
Still, the Panthers are having to replace a lot of good players, including at the quarterback position, where Marty Smyser III, a sophomore, will start on the varsity level for the first time.
Yes, the game will seem fast for him at first, but Miles is confident that Trey, as coach calls him, will grow into and succeed in the critical offensive position, especially after seeing him in action during the recent Quincy University football camp.
“He did great things leading the team and is getting better and better,” Miles said.
Aaron Ritchey saw some starting play-calling time as a sophomore last year, but it was decided to move him into the three-back spot, a combination of wide receiver and running back, to better use his talents.
“And, he’s excited about filling that role,” Miles said. “It just enables us to put our best 11 players on the field and allows Aaron to be one of our main players on both sides of the ball.”
Ritchey will still be a back-up quarterback with the other two quarterbacks on the high school level being freshmen.
Smyser comes from a strong lineage of athletes who have excelled in Palmyra sports, starting with his father, a former assistant coach and a quarterback in the early part of this century who helped lead the Panthers to the school’s only state football championship game and going back to his grandfather, who had a major roll on an undefeated state basketball championship team.
“It’s really great to have him around,” Miles said of Trey. “And, with the relationship I have with his family, it’s like having my own son as quarterback.”
Smyser will also be operating a somewhat throw-back offensive system that utilizes a split back, veer mode.
“It’s really going old school a little, going back to when Brock Butler and Ben Cheffey were quarterbacks,” Miles said.
Joining Smyser and Ritchey in the back field will be seniors Ashton Hankins, senior, at two back or full back, and Ryan McKeown, at four back.
Seniors, Ethan Redd and Brett Tuter will be the wide receiver/tight ends.
Backing them up will be juniors Lathyn Sutter, Gideon Bogue and Ethan Tallman, and sophomore, Daniel Dames and Parker Bier.
The offensive line will consist of junior, Zeke Meyers, at center, senior, Jose Juarez and junior, Gage Barnett, as guards and senior, Jeremiah Edwards, and junior, Jayden Sharrow, as tackles with senior, Andrew Comer, junior, Tyler Zeiger, and sophomore, Jackson Hicks as backups.
“They all have good size, are quick off the ball, good with their hands and do a lot of good things,” Miles said.
On the other side of the ball will be Comer, Juarez, Edwards and Sharrow on the line with the others backing them up.
Hankins, Tuter and Sutter will be the linebackers and Bogue, Redd, Ritchey and McKeown will be the D-backs.
“They are a team that really likes to go after it, go down hill and go after the ball,” Miles said.
It’s a little early for the special teams to shake out, but Miles said the early leaders are Ritchey as punter and Ritchey and Hankins as place kickers.
The season will start off with four tough opponents in Hallsville, Bowling Green, Centralia and Macon.
“It will be interesting and tough, but it is what it is,” Miles said of the string.
Miles believes Macon, Centralia and Monroe City appear to be the class of the Clarence Cannon Conference this season, so those first four games could determine Palmyra’s league standing.
Still it all comes down to what the team is like after the regular season is completed.
“We just have to be playing our best football by Week 10,” Miles said. “We tell our kids to just keep getting better, believe in the process, and to know that (the coaches) are not going to give up, so if you guys don’t give up we’ll be fine.”
This year, the Panthers will compete in Class 2, District 7 along with Brookfield, Clark County, Macon, Maryville and Trenton.
Miles has a few new faces joining his mostly veteran coaching staff.
With the retirement of Mark Loman, Steven Jones will take on the middle school teams.
Joining Tyler Krietemeyer, Mark Hoerr, Nick Powell, Brian Rae and Mark Lickfeld are Jeremiah Reed and Joe Drebes, a volunteer.
Miles said he is pleased with what’s coming down the pike in their strong groups of sophomores and freshmen, although the junior varsity and freshman teams will be led by freshmen quarterbacks, Ryan McKinney and Abram Smyser, respectively.
“I think we’re looking pretty good,” Miles said.
Miles will not be able to patrol the sidelines during the first game at Hallsville due to a brief “leave of absence resulting from a situation that occurred in an unsupervised locker room” according to a news release issued by R-I Superintendent Jason Harper.
“The district administration and Coach Miles have worked together to create a supervision plan that will eliminate these issues moving forward,” Harper said.
2022 PHS Varsity
8/19 Han. Jamboree 6 p.m.
8/26 at Hallsville 7 p.m.
9/2 at Bowl. Green 7 p.m.
9/9 at Centralia 7 p.m.
9/16 Macon 7 p.m.
9/23 Brookfield 7 p.m.
9/30 at Monroe City 7 p.m.
10/7 Clark Co. 7 p.m.
10/14 at Highland 7 p.m.
10/21 South Shelby 7 p.m.
10/28 District TBA 7 p.m.
2022 PHS JV
8/29 at Hannibal 6 p.m.
9/6 at Centralia 6 p.m.
9/12 Monroe City 6 p.m.
9/19 Highland 6 p.m.
9/26 at Macon 6 p.m.
10/3 S. Shelby 6 p.m.
10/10 at Bowl. Gr. 6 p.m.
10/17 Clark Co. 6 p.m.
2022 PHS Freshmen
9/8 Centralia 6 p.m.
9/15 at Macon 6 p.m.
9/22 Clark Co. 6 p.m.
9/29 at Mexico 6 p.m.
10/5 QHS 6 p.m.
10/13 QND 6 p.m.