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Season Ended on Sour Note for Gridiron Panthers
October 31, 2007 - Heading into the 2007 season opener, the Knightstown Panther football team showed great promise with a potentially explosive offense and a swarming defense built on speed.
After a 13-7 win over a highly-regarded Centerville team that would not lose again, Knightstown had cleared what was thought to be one of the two biggest hurdles during the regular season.
Unfortunately, severe injuries suffered by all-state candidates quarterback Joe Haase and fullback Trey McColley, threw the Panther ship off balance. What followed was an up-and-down season in which the Panthers beat some teams they probably should have lost to, and lost to some others they should have beaten.
Knightstown managed to put together a couple of big wins over rivals Tri High and Shenandoah, but those followed a loss to Eastern Hancock. It was the only game the Royals won all season.
The Panthers closed the year with a shocking loss to an 0-8 Tri-Central team, finally hitting rock-bottom in what was already an upside-down season. Knightstown had nothing left when the playoffs rolled around the next week, falling to fifth-ranked Triton Central in the sectional 60-20.
A season that started out with so much promise came crashing down at the end with back-to-back devastating losses. The way the football season ended will wear on Panther Coach Bob Prescott for some time to come.
“I love the seniors that played for us this year and I love all of the kids on our team,” Prescott said. “But the way this season ended left me with a really bad taste in my mouth. That just doesn’t set well with me.”
Prescott tried to put the season into perspective, but struggled with the words to describe the ups and downs, as well as mistakes, that plagued the team all season.
“Just about everything that could go wrong went wrong this season,” Prescott said. “We had some key injuries. Early in the season we had some kids step up and do a pretty good job. We beat some pretty good teams this year.
“But we didn’t get any better as the season went on. Offensively, we didn’t improve as we gained experience, and I really don’t know why.”
The Panthers lost to Hagerstown handily, thumped Wes-Del, and then was clobbered by North Decatur. After the loss to Eastern Hancock, Knightstown was looking at a 2-3 record and the potential for a disastrous season.
But the team rebounded with a stellar defense and enough offensive consistency to beat Shenandoah and Tri, improving their record to an unlikely 4-3. A very winnable conference championship game was on the horizon with Lapel, and the regular season would conclude at winless Tri-Central. Most thought that pointed toward a 6-3 regular season and great potential heading into sectional play.
“When we beat Shenandoah and Tri High I really thought that would springboard us and good things would happen late in the year,” Prescott said. “I thought we could finish with a run like we did last season. The problem was, we weren’t getting any better and were continuing to make the same mistakes we were making early in the season.”
The Panthers first lost at home to the Bulldogs 21-12, and then went on the road at Tri-Central, owners of a 15-game losing streak. Knightstown was upset in that game 28-20, destroying any confidence the team had heading in to the sectional against 9-0 Triton Central.
“I thought the Triton Central game was by far our worst game of the year,” Prescott said. “I feel for the kids that we finished on such a big, down note.”
The Panther second-year mentor isn’t going to sit back and wait for next summer to try and figure out what went wrong this season. Plans are already in place to get a handle on the mindset of the players who will return to wear a Knightstown uniform next season.
“We’re going to be conducting a sort of exit interview with all of the underclassmen,” Prescott said. “We’re going to have all of them complete questionnaires, we will interview them, and we will get their perspective on the season. That will give us a chance to talk with each of them about what they need to work on.”
When Haase and McColley went down with their injuries, the Panthers lost more than four starting positions. They lost their team captains and the primary on-field leadership. In essence, the team lost its heart and soul.
“We are going to address leadership issues,” Prescott said. “We are going to try to work in some leadership seminars and possibly a retreat to get to know these kids and give them an opportunity to know what is expected of them.
“The coaching staff is going to thoroughly examine every little thing we do,” Prescott said. “We will take a close look at what we have done and what we need to do as well.
“There were times when just a few plays could have made the difference in games we lost this year. There were times when our kids responded when their backs were against the wall. But late in the season and especially in the Triton Central game, we didn’t do that. As coaches we have to figure out why that happened.”
KHS Gridders Will Lose Nine Seniors
Oct. 31, 2007 - Nine Knightstown High School athletes ended their varsity football careers this season. Graduating this spring will be Joe Haase, Trey McColley, Kyle Freeman, Zach Lake, Brad Carrender, Cody Hibbert, Matt Bledsoe, Justin Sanders and Brett Morris.
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