Panthers on the prowl at practice|Team excited to start the season

Published 9:58 am Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sports Writer

YEATESVILLE — Despite its 3-8 record of a year ago, Northside finished the 2009 season on a high note as it almost pulled off a first-round knockout against a top 1-A team.
The Panthers had a rocky season last year, showing signs of promise on both sides of the ball, but could not sustain that superior play for as long as coach Keith Boyd would have liked.
Though the team collected only three wins, the Panthers came out in the first round of the playoffs and fought the No. 2 ranked Creswell Tigers with everything they had. Northside fell by one point to the Tideland Conference champions, but finished the season with its head held high.
This year, the Panthers have lost quarterback Isaiah McCullor and tackle Seth Boyd, both WDN all-area players, but have a solid returning cast that should be able to build on last year’s season-ending momentum.
“The great thing is that we have most of our offense line back,” Boyd said. “We got DeMarquez Martin back, he rushed for 1,300 yards last season, and all those guys are trying to assume a leadership role. It’s nice to see not just one (player assume a leadership role), but if you got four or five, which it looks like we are going to have, then it makes it easier.”
Northside will bring back seven starters on offense, and about the same on defense, making it a fairly experienced crew. On top of that, Boyd said he has had a little over 50 athletes come out for the team, the most he has had in a few years.
“It’s been really upbeat here,” Boyd said. “I have 55 kids out, that’s the most I’ve had in four or five years. I haven’t had a JV team in a few years, and we got plenty for that. The numbers in itself shows the enthusiasm.”
The Panthers spent most of the first week working on conditioning. This week, the team has donned the pads and will work on the playbook along with fundamentals.
“Last week we did a lot of conditioning, we put in a lot of our plays and worked on our base defense,” Boyd said. “Now, we want to be able to rep that stuff. The kids their full gear on and we are just trying to keep everything upbeat. … Overall, it’s been really, really good.”
As of now, Taequan Mackey has been lining up as the team’s quarterback and has looked sharp. Aside from Martin, Brandon Ussery and Shaquille Moore will be the featured backs.
Boyd, who has never been shy about tinkering with his offense, said that there may be a few new wrinkles to this year’s scheme.
“We have always kind of been a team that will open it up and try and get out on the edge, and we are still going to try and continue to do that. But we are a lot bigger than we have been in the past, especially at the running back positions,” Boyd said. “We got Martin, Ussery and Moore who will all be assuming ball carrying roles. We might just get into some tighter formations this year and pound the ball.”