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X-FACTOR

>>Panthers offensive philosophy helps team find their identity under the dual quarterback system, starring senior Darious Green (pictured left).

1. Running his route, junior Dylan Payne looks for the ball. 2. Fighting through the Spotsylvania defender, senior Drake Sanders protects the ball.

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TheLineUp For Panthers, winning is not everything As the sun-drenched Panthers walked off the field on that late November day in 2003, for many of the football players, that would be the last time they would by Justin Jett ever see the football Sports Editor field again from the athlete’s perspective. On that day, the Panthers were not perfect. In a season where seemingly nothing could go wrong, something happened – they lost. But as time has gone by, the wounds from that game have been patched up. Sure, it still stings my brother, an offensive lineman at the time, to talk about the game, but the majority of the memories are mostly good. It has become evident that winning truly is not everything. Massaponax went down to Richmond early on that Saturday morning still holding onto the chance that they could pull out a victory against Hopewell High School in the AAA Division Five state championship, despite losing star quarterback Nat Jackson the previous game. Things simply did not go the Panthers way, leaving the scoreboard at 41-21, in favor of Hopewell. Players were devastated and some even cried. Some sat there in disbelief. Was winning really all it’s hyped up to be? On that day, the clear answer was a resounding “yes.” What’s the difference between winning and losing anyway? For the football team, they would have gotten nice rings signifying their victory, a nice trophy and even a place in the VHSL record books. But other than the material worth of the win, no person on this planet can take away what the Panthers did that season. Although there is not as much dignity being runner-ups, Massaponax still finished better than every other team in the state. Unless you subscribe to Ricky Bobby’s philosophy of “if you ain’t first, you’re last,” there should be nothing wrong with second place. Winning in high school should not be totally disregarded as being unimportant. No athlete wants to play for a team that never wins. Thus is the reason why coaches have a tough job of not only leading the team to victory but also to preaching unity and teamwork. Even if the team is a perennial disappointment, as long as the coach and players know that they gave every last ounce of energy they had, they having nothing to feel ashamed about. At our ten year anniversary, we are not going to remember how many losses we had in our losing seasons. We are not going to remember how many times we should have won a game. All we are going to have is our memories sacred to us.

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Dylan Payne

Diaunte Bell

Najee Harris

Drake Sanders

Mason Chandler

Jr. Wide Receiver

Sr. 2 Back

Jr. H-Back

Sr. Fullback

Jr. Wide Receiver

Taylor Keister

Chris Wagner

A.J. Lopez

Jake Roberts

Quinn Hill

Sr. Left Tackle

Sr. Left Guard

Jr. Center

Sr. Right Guard

So. Right Tackle

Offense sees new look by Matt Kelly staff writer

5. 3. Kicking the ball, senior Josh Hildebrand sends the Panthers in pursuit. 4. Sprinting with the ball, junior Najee Harris jukes past a Riverbend Bear. Harris has 111 rushing yards on the season along with a touchdown reception. 5. Standing in the pouring rain, junior Andre Wyche looks on as the Chancellor Chargers proceed to score. (PHOTOS BY JUSTIN JETT)

Fresh off a 9-2 campaign, the football team, came into the 2008 season looking to establish a new identity. This year the offense features new faces, due to the departures of former Panthers Shane Ludden, John Ludden, Freddie Richardson and Thaddeus Scruggs. Since their offseason workouts, the team has had the mindset to work on excelling at fundamental aspects. “As an offense we are trying to be quicker than the opposing team off the snap and limit our mistakes,” junior Donny Santiso said. The team has the year-long task of establishing an identity that defines their style of play and what they do to win. They entered the year with a new look on offense, attempting to feature two quarterbacks within their system. “The two quarterback system has been beneficial to the team, because it gives the team two people to receive leadership from,” junior Dylan Payne said. Another dimension in the offense has been created as a result of the integration of the new system. Senior Darious Green provides a threat at quarterback with his mobility creating many opportunities, however junior Thomas Robinson allows for Green to showcase his skills as a wide receiver. “Darious is a proven All-District wide receiver. Darious may play as a wide receiver in college,” coach Eric Ludden said. “Thomas does more than pass, he does a good job running the option as well.” The players recognize the benefits of the system, forcing them to realize what must be done to win.

Playbook

Right Tight T 13

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Description: Triple Option Quarterback Darious Green has the option of either handing the ball off to fullback Drake Sanders or running to the outside along with Najee Harris, pitching the ball to a teammate if the opportunity arises.

The styles of play from the two quarterbacks allow for the offense to flow better, but it also leaves room for improvement. “Weekly, we make sure everyone knows their assignments and what they are expected to do,” Payne said. The offense features more than just new faces at quarterback, with senior fullback Drake Sanders returning this year. Sanders, who ran for 14 touchdowns last year, has more of a featured role this year in the game plan. “This year, [the offense] has more of an emphasis on Drake, due to his experience and abilities,” Ludden said. Sanders has taken over the featured role in the backfield, previously occupied by Scruggs. At wide receiver, junior Mason Chandler and Payne have replaced Richardson and Green. “This year we have some inexperience at skill positions,” Ludden said. However, one familiar face is senior Josh Hildebrand. Hildebrand has consistently worked on his kicking game, becoming one of the area’s top kickers. “Josh is a weapon, his kicks are stronger, and he is a leader for this football team,” Ludden said. “He is one of my captains.” The overall approach of the team has been established by emphasizing skills that may truly identify the team. Ludden has the offense focused on emphasizing a balanced attack, which requires a game plan that is based upon staying healthy. “We have more speed at quarterback, we are attempting to run more, and like always we need to stay healthy,” Ludden said. Despite a slow start to the season, Ludden and the team still have confidence in their offensive attack.

Left Tray Trail 67

Description: Passing Play - Quarterback Darious Green rolls to the left. Depending on the defensive coverage, he either looks to the two receivers in the flat, fullback Drake Sanders or half back Diaunte Bell, or to his wideouts, Dylan Payne and Mason Chandler.


October 2008 Newspaper