Panthers a work in progress|Offense, defense add new wrinkles

Published 11:42 am Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Contributing Writer

YEATESVILLE — The symbolism is too evident to ignore. About 200 or 300 yards away from the Northside Panthers football field stands the shell of what will become a brand-new workout facility/locker room that head coach Keith Boyd hopes can help facilitate his team’s journey to the next level.
Adjacent to the up and coming field house, another work in progress can be seen, only its improvement is less tangible and has no time table.
Like the new weight room, the Panthers football team will not be built overnight but, when all the pieces are in place, Boyd hopes both will be a sight to behold.
The field house is expected to be done in December; the Northside football team has some catching up to do.
Last season the Panthers had a slew of quarterback issues which seemingly compounded each week and transformed a 2-2 start into a 2-9 season, culminating with a loss in the final week to archrival and previously winless Southside.
For most coaches, their fourth year is their time to shine. All the freshmen that were around in the first year have grown to be seniors, and most of the players are familiar with the system. However, for Boyd, each season seems to be like the movie Groundhog’s Day, as he has routinely lost upper-classmen and finds himself back at the beginning every August.
“You would like to think we can (make a leap forward),” Boyd said. “If we kept all the people we came in with for all four years, we would be able to build a program. We have Seth Boyd here; he is the only senior we have that has been with us since he was a freshman.
“That’s what people don’t understand. We have to start over every year. However, in 1-A football you just hope you can get a class of about 16 that you can keep all the way through. Then you have a good chance to go on and do some things.”
Isaiah McCullor will have a chance to do some things this year as he will be back behind center for Northside. Last year’s opening day starter was Darius Murray, who showed promise. However, Murray left the team in the middle of the year.
McCullor filled in and played admirably, until he got hurt midway through the year. From that point on the Panthers season was an uphill climb.
McCullor is healthy now, and should enjoy this season immensely as Boyd promised his team will air out the football.
“We are going to throw the ball. We have a quarterback with a real good arm,” Boyd said. “We are still going to run our options, but we have gone away from the wings and will use a tight end this year. We’ll use some three-wide sets and mix it up a little. It will be what you have always seen, but if we can stay healthy we are going to throw it a little bit more.”
With Seth Boyd, the 6-5, 280-pound senior left tackle watching the quarterback’s blind side, Northside thinks it can buy time to get the ball to its playmakers, Damont Harvey and Zeke Williams.
“We think we do have the personnel to throw the ball a lot; that’s why we are doing it,” Boyd said. “If we didn’t think so, we wouldn’t do it. We are also going to use our receivers as extended wings and run some jet (sweeps) and things like that. We are trying to find ways to score points because we are not really, really big up front, so we want teams to have to defend the whole field.”
When the Panthers have to defend the field, they will present a new look.
“We have gone away from the 3-5 and have gone with the 4-3,” Boyd said. “We feel like we don’t have as many specialty players, so we will try to eliminate a specialty position and plug in another line to shore up our front.”
The new defense will have until Aug. 21 to gel. That’s when Northside will travel to Mattamuskeet to kick off its season.