With the Blue/Gray Scrimmage tomorrow morning, let’s take a look at what to expect from the 2016 Panthers.
“We run the same offensive scheme, the same defensive scheme, but it’s a completely new team,” said coach Andy Hape. “A new senior class, new leadership, we got a lot of new guys in positions that they have played before but never under Friday night lights.”
The Blue/Gray Scrimmage starts with the 8th and 9th grade players at 9 a.m. and is followed by the varsity scrimmage at 10 a.m. on Saturday at the Reitz Bowl.
“So we have a really good handful of those guys and we are still trying to sift through and have the right ones out there on Friday nights to make plays,” Hape said. “The Blue and Gray game is going to be a great indicator of that.”
As far as the scheme of this team, nothing has changed since last season. Reitz will still be a 50-50 run-pass team offense, while defensively the Panthers look to be more aggressive this season.
“We are going to take some more chances, change up coverages a little bit and try to get after the quarterback more than we have in the past,” Hape said. “Our biggest goal going into the Blue/Gray game is trying to finalize those last few spots going into the scrimmage next week (vs. Mater Dei).”
The coaches plan to take a hard look and study the film from Saturday in order to find the guys who will step up when the pressure is on.
“It’s a practice for us, but it’s a little different,” Hape said. “It’s going to be mom and dad in the stands and we want to see those guys who will show up and compete when everything is on the line. I love the leadership of this football team. We have a good core group of team-football players and they are fun to coach. It’s a pleasure to come out to practice and watch them compete, and get angry and be successful.”
With any young team the physiological aspect of the game can cause a little bit of uneasiness.
“A lot of these guy, since they are new, they got to figure out how to grind through things sometime,” said Hape. “When our backs against the wall and we are facing some adversity, which you’re going to in every ballgame, being able to dig ourselves out of that. It has gotten better but with a young team sometimes you struggle with that.”
Hape continued, “we have seen glimpse of guys really struggling with that and we have also seen glimpse of guys digging themselves out of it. I think our biggest thing now is the mental side of grinding through a complete game.”
The Panthers are healthy heading into the Blue/Gray Scrimmage with no significant injuries this summer, knock on wood.
When asked if any players are flying under the radar, Hape said, “I think a lot of guys are under the radar because we just don’t simply have the experience. I think those guys that a lot of people don’t know about are simply because there is no film on them and they are kind of unproven right now. Until we get battle tested I think that everyone who didn’t play last year is under the radar.”
“Other than that,” Hape said, “I think time will tell. I think we are going to be pretty good offensively but until we are battle-tested, we’re not sure. Defensively we feel like we are pretty solid. I think we are a little better offensive-line wise than we were at this time last year. So there are a lot of positives coming out of the summer and out of the first week of camp.”
Note: Thanks to Dennis Marshall for contributing this story