Panthers cleaning up their game

Published 4:30 pm Thursday, August 11, 2016

PINETOWN — Northside hosted its first set of scrimmages against other teams on Wednesday. It was an important step in preseason preparations as the Panthers had a chance to face off against one another, but were eager to see how they measured up against other teams in the area.

Among other things, the experience served as a reminder of the importance of limiting turnovers. Those self-inflicted wounds plagued the Panthers throughout 2015. They threw six interceptions and lost 20 fumbles en route to a 2-9 season.

Northside’s rushers proved their ability to better hang on to the ball. However, the team still got in its own way thanks to penalties. The Panthers committed a handful of blocks in the back, among other infractions.

“I was pleased that we didn’t lay it on the ground as much,” coach Keith Boyd said. “We held on to the football on offense. We had a lot of times where we would have some good plays and, on the good plays, that’s when the penalties came. It stopped our momentum a little bit.”

Boyd chalked up the penalties more to the team’s aggressive nature and less to a simple lack of discipline.

“To watch it on film, we’re trying to hustle and make plays,” he said. “We have to use our head of when we have to pull up and when we’re in the right position. It wasn’t a lack of effort. I think we were just trying so hard to make plays that we hit when we weren’t supposed to hit them.”

Northside’s offense takes on Southside’s defense on Wednesday. The Panthers have among the biggest offensive lines in the area.

Highlighting some shortcomings like taking penalties is the point of having scrimmages. Northside has taken it a step further by having an officiating staff both times it has been out on the field.

Technique on both sides of the ball improved as the scrimmage progressed, which is something Boyd was hoping to see.

“I was pretty pleased with that, especially toward the end,” he said. “At the end of the scrimmage, I felt like we got better and better as it went on. There are still a lot of things to work on. All in all, some of the things that plagued us last year — which was mostly fumbles — they didn’t raise their heads up in the scrimmage.

“I hope we continue to improve on that and let that be a thing that helps us win some ball games down the road.”

Northside got to test out its ground-based offense against a Southside team that appears to be efficient in stopping the run. Between that and the teams the Panthers will see on Friday, their offense should be polished by the time the season begins.

The Panthers will partake in Southside’s scrimmage jamboree on Friday. After that, they’ll start shifting their focus toward their season opener at Cresswell.