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Panthers Will Have Explosive Offense, Fast Defense
August 15, 2007 - When the Knightstown Panthers take the football field this Friday night, season opening opponent Centerville will have to deal with somewhat of a rarity in Panther football. This year’s team is extremely quick.
Coach Bob Prescott enters his second season at the helm of KHS football knowing that team speed will be vital to the success of the program this season. Headlining that quick Panther squad will be a collection of veterans who will play key roles on both sides of the ball, and a deep and talented sophomore class that will have an immediate impact.
The Panthers are coming off a 5-7 season in which they rebounded strongly from a 2-6 start. Last year the team played under difficult circumstances following the 2005 Panther squad that went 14-1 and lost in the state championship. Nearly every starter graduated from that team, and the Panthers also entered the season with a new head coach.
After a five-game losing streak dropped the Panthers to 2-6 on the season, they turned it around and won three straight games, losing in the sectional championship to Eastern Hancock.
This year, everything is taking on a different look. Opponents first have to deal with veteran quarterback Joe Haase, named all-White River Athletic Conference last year as a junior. Haase will step under center already having 12 varsity games worth of experience running Coach Prescott’s complex no-huddle option offense. As a junior, Haase completed 49 of 113 passes for 623 yards and eight touchdowns. He also rushed for 394 yards and five touchdowns, and comes into this season bigger, stronger, faster and a much better cutting runner.
His primary weapon will be senior fullback Trey McColley, a bruising 5-11, 215-pound bulldozer who rushed for 1,381 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior. He was also named all-WRAC and is the most dangerous running back in the Sectional 29 field.
Haase will have a jungle full of talented Panther running backs at his disposal, preventing teams from keying on McColley. Zach Sanders, Lane Fields, Danny Ortman, Aaron Forshey, Jordan Hauk, Travis Titus and others are all potential break-away threats from what might be the deepest backfield at Knightstown in decades.
Additionally, several returning lineman will clear the way for the Panther offensive attack. Seniors Cody Hibbert (5-11, 204 pounds), Matt Bledsoe (5-8, 246) and Kyle Freeman (5-10, 267) were all starters last season and figure to make life very difficult for opposing defensive linemen.
Prescott credited the offensive line with playing well in the scrimmage. Freeman, center Zach Lake, Bledsoe, Hibbert and Dillon Silver pushed around the Patriot defenders.
Haase also has a new weapon this year in the form of Brett Morris, a transfer from Shelbyville who caught two touchdown passes in the scrimmage against Union County. Morris is a 5-11, 166-pound senior. On the defensive side, team speed will play a major role in the success of the Panthers this season. Six starters return from last season, including Freeman, defensive end Justin Sanders (5-11, 170), who had a quarterback sack in the scrimmage, McColley, Lake (5-9, 208), Brice Biehl and Haase.
With 14 members of the sophomore class bringing considerable strength and speed to the team, Prescott is optimistic that an injury-free Panther team can have a very good year.
“We don’t have a lot of depth at some positions, but we are very deep at others,” Prescott said. “We obviously don’t have the size we’ve had in previous years. But the coaching staff is not concerned with that because we will be a lot quicker and our overall team speed and pursuit will be much better. We more than feel that our speed will make up for any size problems up front.”
The Panthers will field a veteran linebacker corps in McColley, Lake and Sanders. Freeman will have Brad Carrender joining him on the defensive line, as well as Bledsoe, Ethan Paul and Dillon Silver. The team will be a force at defensive end, with Cody Wisehart, Nick Hochstedler and the Forshey twins, Anthony and Aaron, who are extremely fast and agile. The secondary will have all-conference talent Haase at the corner cover, with Titus, Biehl as safeties. Outside linebackers will be Morris, Ethan Pearson, Lane Fields and Cody Overbay.
Pearson will handle the punting duties, and Jordan Hauk will kick extra points and handle kickoff duties. Titus, Biehl, Pearson and Blair will be the Panther return men.
Biehl will be the number one backup quarterback, and looked good in the scrimmage against Union County. Number three quarterback Drew Martin also looked good against the Patriots.
“We have no problems with any of those guys at quarterback,” Prescott said. “They are all capable of being the leader of that offense.”
While Prescott acknowledges the team doesn’t have a lot of depth at the tackle positions on either side of the ball, he’s confident that if the team stays healthy, they will be a force throughout the season. It’s doubtful the schedule will get much tougher than the season opener against Centerville. Last year the Bulldogs whipped the Panthers 26-13, and Bulldog quarterback Drew Schauss (6-4, 190) burned Knightstown several times in that game. He returns this season.
“Centerville is definitely a big game for us,” Prescott said. “We emphasize being in great shape and not sucking wind at halftime, which is exactly what we were doing last year. We missed a lot of tackles in that game. But as the season wore on last year, we improved a lot in that area and hopefully, that’s going to carry over to this season.
“I saw a lot of things happen in that scrimmage that I liked. That success should have done a lot for the confidence of these kids, and hopefully that will show Friday night.”
The Panthers kick off the season relatively injury-free, with the exception of sophomore tight end Lucas Hochstedler. He also serves as the team’s long snapper on punts, and suffered an injury that will keep him out indefinitely.
Centerville, coming off a 7-3 season last year, visits Friday night in the season opener. The Bulldogs won last year’s battle, but have not fared well against the Panthers over the years. Knightstown has defeated Centerville eight of the last 10 times the teams have met, and the Bulldogs have not won at KHS since the 1980’s.
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