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Panthers start football season Thursday

With yet more rain in Friday’s forecast, Northside officials decided to kick off an already unique football season a day early. Better early than never at this point.

The Panthers will host North Duplin in non-conference action at 6 p.m. Thursday.

“We are really excited about finally getting started and are looking forward it,” said 15th year head coach Keith Boyd. “Our guys have been working toward this since June and we’d rather play a day earlier than have to reschedule or cancel because it rained Friday.”

The Panthers return 12 seniors and seven starters on each side of the ball after an 8-5 season last year that ended in the second round of the 1A playoffs.

Senior James Gorham, who led the Panthers with 1,007 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns returns along with versatile senior Tyler Modlin, who had 1,076 all-purpose yards between rushing, receiving and returning punts and kickoffs.

Junior Keifer Boyd takes over at quarterback behind an experienced line of Zion Wilson, Fred Taylor, Landon Cahoon and A.K. O’Neal.

“We are going to hang our hat on our offensive line,” Boyd said. “It’s up to them to protect Keifer and open some holes for our speed guys.

Boyd expects Wilson and Taylor to anchor the defensive line along with senior Nick Baker. Seniors Will Godley and Tyler Harris along with junior Mitch Godley are the returning linebackers, with younger players in the secondary.

“This group has done a great job staying busy in the weight room while waiting for the season to start,” Boyd said. “They’ve stayed focused and if we perform like we look on paper, we should be pretty good.”

Because of the COVID-19 shortened seven-game regular season, eight teams instead of 12 will make the playoffs from the East.

“That gives us Thursday night to work out the kinks before conference games start,” Boyd said. “We’re hoping our preparation will pay off with a strong start.”