BELGRADE – The Belgrade Panthers are back in the swing of the football season, and this year they have a familiar look, returning a lot of key contributors on both sides of the ball.
“Having all these players come back, I think we’ll get over the hump, and with the leadership that we have and what I’ve been seeing, I think we’re going to be good and I think we are going to have a successful season this year,” said head coach Eric Kinnaman.
The Panthers are a week into their fall camp, but the players have been putting in much more work than just two practices a day.
“We’ve been out here a lot longer than a few weeks. We’ve been out here since April doing this,” said senior linebacker Travis Bagby. “But it’s looking really good, everybody’s showing up and they are doing their thing. We’re weeks and maybe months ahead of where we would normally be.”
That hunger to practice on their own since the spring comes after the Panthers went 2-7 last season. It was a tough year for Belgrade, though, who saw 11 upperclassman fall to injury.
“When you go through an injury-plagued season and you try to get better every week, I don’t think we started the same O-Line a single week last year,” Kinnaman said. “So hopefully we can go through this season with limited injuries.”
The 2018 season marks a fresh start for the Panthers with fresh legs. And with a lot of their weapons back, the Panthers are taking the playbook to another level this year.
“I think we’re mixing it up, doing a lot of schemes with passing and running, a lot more fakes, just different ways to get people open this year instead of relying on maybe just running,” said senior wide receiver Easton Page.
But one thing is clear — this team has a lot of chemistry after practicing throughout spring and they are ready to play for each other. Belgrade has been a team riding a roller coaster — some years they are on a high, other years they go low. But this season, the expectation is clear.
“First thing we have to take care of is win the conference and then get the state championship,” Page said. “We got to the semis two years ago and we want to get back to that position and go off of that.”