By Jeremy McDonald
INDEPENDENCE, Ore.– In 2017, the Central Panthers found themselves in game of eight points or less five times with wins against Glencoe (7-6), Dallas (21-14) and Sliverton (41-35) while losing one score games to Mountain View (28-21) and Crescent Valley (33-25).
But, the experience in those games have served them well as they jump straight into league from Week one through the end of the season as they learn and improve moving forward into this season.
“It made us more hungry because we saw that and now we want to improve on that from last year,” said Kaleb Kantola on carrying those lessons into this season.
Central was entering their third day of practice Wednesday, and it was more of a walk-through feel with the smoke that was lingering around the Independence/Monmouth-area as the Panthers battle through the elements that Mother Nature was giving them on this August afternoon.
“I think we always get reps in, we always get hard work in no matter what if it’s smoky or not. We always work as hard as we can,” said Zach Stone.
And with names like Peter Mendazona, Jammer Ruiz and Braden Fuszek graduating, Central will be looking for guys to fill their spots. On the line, Stone and company will be helping protect the six-foot-three-inch Kantola in the pocket to give the pitcher turned quarterback an opportunity to go through his progression as Kantola was taking the majority of the snaps from center during Wednesday’s practice.
“Well, he’s a tall guy and it’s important for us to make a pocket for him to be able to move. He’s not the most mobile quarterback but he has a great arm so we’re just looking to make him pass when he can,” said Stone who plays offensive line on Kantola.
But Kantola was also sharing reps with Trent Cyphers to fill-in for Mendazona full-time this season as the recent graduate left them a standard to live by.
“Very good. He showed us good leadership and led the team really well,” said Kantola as he too points out the Mendazona would help correct any wrongs with them.
With the season still in the infancy though, Stone also said too that it’ll take them some time offensively to get the plays down pit-pat, so it’ll be important for their defense to step it up big with Silverton here in two weeks.
“We really have to shut it down on the defensive side because we’re not 100-percent on our offense yet because we haven’t ran anything (yet). So shutting it down on defense, we’ll have more of a cushion on offense,” said Stone who too came in defensively as a middle linebacker during Wednesday’s practice.
And as they ended the 90 minute walk-through session and went into the locker room, it’s just another day closer to game day when they open up against the Foxes on the road and another chance to improve Thursday to take the step in the right direction.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald