Panthers welcome older, inexperienced additions

Published 8:14 pm Thursday, August 3, 2017

PINETOWN — Northside, especially on offense, has some new faces hoping to fill voids left by last year’s senior class. The Panthers need to find players that will move the ball after losing skill players like Jackson Midgette and James Barrow. Upfront, they are tasked with replacing the sheer mass of linemen like Daniel Godley and Laekwon Flynn.

Head coach Keith Boyd and his staff has been graced with strong numbers throughout the first week of preseason practices. Northside has had around 50 players reporting. While some have been newer to the program, they’re not young players. The Panthers are getting a lot of upperclassmen that, for various reasons, haven’t played recently.

“Right now, we love to see their growth and things looking good, but we won’t know anything until they put those pads on,” Boyd said. He said there are up to eight older players that are new to the team. Many of these players haven’t suited up in Panther gear in a while, if ever. However, some of them do have football backgrounds.

Learning the ropes has been somewhat of an easier adjustment for an upperclassman newcomer compared to an incoming freshman. Younger players have shown the drive to improve throughout the summer, but the difference in maturity is meaningful to the coaches.

“They’ve got the maturity level. Evidently, they haven’t played in two or three years, and they’re coming out wanting to learn, wanting to get the knowledge and what it takes to be a good football player,” Boyd said. “That’s what we’re seeing right now.”

Chemistry with teammates is coming along, too.

“I was a little nervous about it at first, but to be honest, everybody is going hard and everybody gets out there,” quarterback Matthew Marslender said. His relationship with new linemen, running backs and wide receivers is improving rapidly. Marslender, who also leads the Panther secondary, had a rapport with some players that are taking on more offensive responsibilities this season.

There are some older players he’ll be playing alongside with for the first time at Northside. Even so, Marslender is at least familiar with some of them thanks to experiences with past teams.

“Tyree Blount, we got him back this year. We had always played together in middle school, and even back to rec ball,” Marslender said. “It’s nice to have him back. We’ve always had a real nice mesh.”

There’s a learning curve that comes with replacing so many key players on offense. It be a few weeks into the season before everything clicks for the Panthers. However, more mature — both mentally and physically — players slotting in helps to minimize the time it takes for Northside to be firing on all cylinders.