Player Profile: Freeman, Panther offense gaining confidence

Published 8:23 pm Tuesday, September 12, 2017

PINETOWN — Raydarius Freeman was a workhorse for Northside in its most competitive game against local rival Washington in a long while. The senior Panther is adjusting to having more responsibility, just like many of the other offensive players. The team returned just one offensive starter from 2016.

Confidence is growing not just for Freeman, but also for the entire Panthers’ offense. Sureness in what they were doing was flowing freely throughout much of the close contest against the Pam Pack. For Freeman, specifically, it resulted in three touchdowns on Friday. He accounted for 24 of the team’s 32 points.

Freeman got Northside on the board on its first drive. He got a 21-yard run by Johnathan Clark to set up a 4-yard score. Freeman then punched in the 2-point conversion to give the Panthers an 8-0 lead. He then ripped off on a 32-yard run — his longest of the game — to put Matthew Marslender in position for the touchdown that put Northside up by two possessions. Marslender was the only Panther to have more carries than Freeman.

“He’s speeding up because he’s sure of where he’s going. We’ve got a bunch of guys in the backfield have never played there much in their lives,” head coach Keith Boyd said. “He’s getting more comfortable with our calls and what gaps we’re running. Because he’s more comfortable, he’s speeding up and using what the good Lord gave him.”

Freeman coming into his own is a direct result of the entire offense playing with confidence. Northside was never going to fire on all cylinders right away in its season opener against Perquimans. Even teams with plenty of returning starters struggle to find their footing out of the gate. However, it outscored the Pirates 22-6 in the final 17:22 en route to a win in that first game.

Confidence has also come with increasing chemistry. The offensive line is cooperating better each day, and the synergy between linemen and the backfield has become noticeably better.

“We’re getting better there, too. We’re starting to understand the line calls and where we’re supposed to be,” Boyd said. “We do a lot of audibles. They’re getting comfortable with what they’re seeing and the calls they’re making. They’re starting to speed up, get on their blocks, things are speeding up and the game is slowing down for them a little bit.”

Freeman added, “I’ve been getting great blocking from my team. … (Marslender and I) have pretty good chemistry. We work on it every day.”

Freeman and the Panthers have been operating well as they head into their final non-conference matchup of the season. If the offense continues to grow each week, its firepower could approach last year’s.