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FB Preview -- Things can only get better for Panthers

September 02, 2009|By TIM KOELBLE/koelble@herald-mail.com

A little continuity, some returning experience and a deeper commitment to the football program are the ingredients that give Hancock a brighter outlook for this season.

"We are definitely going to be better than last year, that's a guarantee," said second-year coach Dave Mahaffey.

Well, one win would be better than last year's 0-9 season, but there's more than just a hope and a prayer that things get better.

"I came in last year and really didn't know the kids. It took some time for them to start buying into the program," said Mahaffey. "Now, they've got one year in the weight room and a full summer of conditioning."

Mahaffey's wing-T offense was still being taught late into the schedule last year. When things finally began taking hold, the Panthers started to put some points on the board.

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"With the formations we have, we want to confuse some people," said Mahaffey.

Sophomore quarterback Garrett Wiles (5-foot-7, 132 pounds) will call the signals. He comes off a high ankle sprain that forced him to miss the last half of the season.

Tanner Dobrzanski (5-10, 155), Nick Lanehart (6-1, 175) and Dakota Clark (5-6, 125) give Hancock experience in the backfield along with split end Eli Souders (5-10, 170), who had 11 catches in last year's season finale against Bishop Walsh.

"Wiles has developed some excellent mechanics to run a wing-T offense," said Mahaffey, "We've got experienced backs."

With a bulked-up offensive line, the Panthers look to do better than their 7.3 per game scoring average last year. That average was boosted by 36 points scored against Bishop Walsh.

The line is anchored by possible Division I recruit Nick Harvey, an All-County first-team selection as a linebacker. Harvey, at 6-1 and a solid 230, will be the short guard.

"Harvey is an 'A' student, on and off the field," said Mahaffey. "He's been a beast in the weight room."

Ethan Martin, a 6-1, 250-pound senior, will be next to Harvey on the offensive line.

"The idea is not to spend the entire season playing defense," said Mahaffey. "We averaged 40 plays on offense and the defense was on the field for an average of 80 plays. In 48 percent of our offensive series, we went three-and-out."

The numbers added up against the Panthers because the defense spent so much time on the field, yet the unit allowed only 18 points per game, including 59 scored by Bishop Walsh.

"I thought the defense was strong last year and it will be again this year," said Mahaffey. "Coach (Eric Yeckley) is working hard with them. We play a high-risk defense that has a high-yield to big plays, but we also had 54 sacks in nine games."

Harvey made 112 tackles from middle linebacker in the Panthers' 3-5 alignment, which will be used this season. Souders and Jarrod McCoy (6-1, 225) will flank Harvey as linebackers.

In a small program (27 players), depth is an important issue every year.

"We've got just a few kids coming off the bench so we've got to stay away from injuries," said Mahaffey. "The younger kids know they've got to be ready at any time."

Hancock opens the season Friday at Rappahannock County (Va.).

Click here for Hancock football roster and schedule.

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