With only five seniors on the squad, the Danbury Panthers are starting from scratch as the 2019 football season approaches.
“It’s like starting a brand -new school with a bunch of juniors and sophomores mixed in with a couple of freshmen in there,” Danbury first-year coach Trey Herrmann said. “We are extremely young, but from there, every time we step in the weight room we get stronger and every time on the field we will get better. I think you will see us improving every week, and we have the tools to do that, but right now it is about building the confidence.”
Coming off its first scrimmage against Anahuac last week, the Panther coaching staff picked up quite a bit on those youngsters.
“It was informative more than anything else,” Herrmann said. “I think for myself, I was used to having spring ball, and not having that, it was like guessing with what you have. But getting to see some live bodies, it helped kind of test the way we had been teaching things as far our practice procedures and things.
“We went from doing a traditional 12 segments on offense, 12 segments on defense and it made us focus more which allowed the kids to kind of pick up things better this week. The scrimmage also allowed us to move some kids around, so we made those changes. It has been a real sharp week this week, and it was a good scrimmage to kind of see those things.”
Speaking of youth, sophomore Levi Flora will be the starting-signal caller this year.
“He works hard, doesn’t ever miss and works at his craft consistently,” Herrmann said. “He is going to continue to get better, so every single day he is going to continue to get better and just be a better quarterback than the day before.”
His backup is also a sophomore, Kolton Warmack, who also will play some safety.
“He brings that tenacity to the position, both at quarterback and safety,” Herrmann said.
Besides the five seniors on board, there are 11 juniors, 10 sophomores and two freshmen that fill out the Panther squad.
With a couple of young quarterbacks under center, Herrmann and his coaching staff looked at different offensive plans.
“We started looking at the Wing-T but then saw an inability to do that,” he said. “So we saw a base tradition, but they’ve been in gun the last couple of years, so we are going to implement some of the Wing-T concept with more of the down hill run from the I. We will be play action stuff on the throwing with a three step game, so we are going to use Wing quite a bit whether a trap, reverse and a lot of passing concepts with the Wing coming underneath.”
Sound confusing, imagine how the players felt.
“The big thing is that they are beginning to understand the vocabulary where football can be a foreign language,” Herrmann said. “So it is important that they’ve picked up the lingo to be able to dissect the terminology, so they understand what pertains to them and how it pertains to their assignment. I feel good about the offense, they’ve looked good this week and now that they’ve picked up on the fact that when we go to segments we do offense before defense, so we have a better practice.”
Cooper Lynch gets the starting nod at running back with Victor Romero earning snaps in a backup role. Brett Neubauer and Hunter Adams will be part of the running back crew because of the Z offense out of the Wing-T, which will allow them to run with the ball, and Deegan Bang and James White will rotate at the fullback position.
Junior Bryan Harris will be the center, flanked by tackles Blake Graham and Kenry McKinney along with sophomore guard Payton Penn.
The backside tackle position is up for grabs between some juniors and sophomores, according to Herrmann.
“Our focus this week has been both offense and defensive lines, because we have guys who will start on both sides of the ball,” Herrmann said. “It is kind of one of those things where they will be the jack of all trades, the master of none. This week we also decided to take the pressure off the linemen and just have them focus on one side of the ball, and I think that will help us a lot. We have some longer kids on the D-line and some big kids on the offensive line.”
Freshman Hunter Vavrecka and sophomore Ethan Cloud will rotate on the tight end position.
Senior Hayden Martin will be one of the wide receivers with the other position being covered by the running backs as a Z position.
Defensively, the Panthers will have a different look this season.
“We are going to be 3-4 multiple and are still learning the terminology and have added some double-eagle looks this week,” Herrmann said. “We will be a traditional Cover 4 in the back.”
Starting up front will be junior left tackle Brent Peltier with senior Anthony Briggs as a right tackle.
“Brent has huge upside, I believe, with some good potential, and Anthony has the same build as Peltier, so he can get into the gaps and keep linemen from getting in on his breastplate there.”
Freshman Dakota Craig, McKinney and Hunter Noel will have a rotation at the nose guard position.
Linebackers will be White, Tanner Kohn and Ethan Martin.
“I believe James will have a chance to be a good linebacker because he’s become more patient with the position,” Herrmann said. “He is seeing the ball well and is always involved somewhere with the tackle.”
Martin will be the third option if needed and will rotate in to give some relief, along with Bang and Romero.
In the secondary, Hayden Martin will start in a corner spot with Joseph Miller rotating in, and Hunter Adams will be the other starter in the corner spot. Neubauer and Lynch will be the starting safeties with Warmack rotating in.
Preston Hathcock will handle both the punting and kicking duties.
“He’s been working on his adjustments to his approach and was kicking them into the end zone this week,” Herrmann said. “If he keeps doing that, we will do a lot better on special teams.”
With a trip to Galveston O’Connell for its second scrimmage set for Friday, Herrmann and company want to see more for their Panthers.
“Improvement on technique, especially when they are transitioning from a penetration D-line to a read front,” Herrmann said. “We just want to make sure they are reading their keys more and playing with their hands more. We want to see more communication in the secondary, especially when we are in motion once the play is in front of them. They’ve gotten better at that this week after seeing their mistakes from last week.
“On the offensive side I want to see push — I want to see them grab someone and drive them back. I won’t mind a holding penalty, but I just don’t want to see us be passive and wait for the D-line to come to us. I want us to be the aggressors so we can move them out. From the skill position I want to see execution and we need to complete the ball at a high percentage. Our goal is to get three to five yards on every run play. But that will start up front with a good push.”
After being away for two scrimmages, the Panthers will open the season Aug. 30 at Humber Field hosting Brookshire Royal.