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Panthers are football ready
Coach says team is ready to face new opponents
Julian Stokes, 13, returns to the 2008 Panther squad as the potential starting quarterback. According to head coach Kirk Warner, Stokes is looking good as he controls the offense. - photo by Photo by Patty Leon/Coastal Courier
With the announcement of the 2008 Georgia High School football schedule, the Liberty County Panthers find themselves in new territory as they face four new teams this season.
Unlike previous seasons when the coaching staff could compare opponents based on film and playing experience, head coach Kirk Warner is hoping a network of friends he has established over the years will help him sort out the new teams in Region 3-AAA.
"We noticed that," he said about the new teams. "But hopefully we developed friendships around the state. When you get to know enough people, you get to the point where you can get enough information on a team and prepare your team."
Adding to the challenge is travel for games against Washington, Baldwin and West Laurens on the road. Thomson is the only home game against a new opponent. Burke County and Richmond Hill, the only two region teams remaining from the former 3A-AAA, are also home games.
But the Panthers know preparation and planning are key, regardless on who you hit on the gridiron.
The team is still working a summer strength and conditioning program, which comes to a close on Aug. 1. Regular season workouts start then.
"It's been going great," Warner said. "We have our core group of roughly 50-60 that keep coming out. I wish a few more of those younger guys would come in and get their feet wet. But most of the guys that we are depending on, the first and second stringers, are coming every day."
The Panthers made one adjustment in the coaching line up as former offensive coordinator, Steve Cotrell, has moved to Athens with his family.
"Coach Jeff Daffron was given the position of offensive coordinator," Warner said. "He was our offensive line coach last year and it's been a smooth transition. That is one good thing about having a staff that has not gone through a lot of turnovers. When someone does leave you can easily promote from within."
Another distinct difference between this season and last season is the Panther's bye week. Last year the Panthers played one game and then had their bye week. This year their bye week is the last week of the season.
"The region sets our schedule and we drew the last bye week of the season," he said. "That's just the way it is. It's kind of tough and it has its pro and cons and can work both ways. If you are on a roll and we are rolling off 10 straight games then I guess it comes in handy."
The coach said the late bye does force them to make sure they are deep in every position, in case of injuries.
"We need to make sure we have somebody that can step in," he said. "One advantage is if we do well and make the playoffs then we get that bye week just before the playoffs. So it does have its pros and cons and that is how we're looking at it.
"Being off that week will give us a sneak preview of who we are playing in the first week of the first round."
He said his squad is working hard and Julian Stokes and Roderick Jones are looking good offensively.
"Defensively, Thomas Penny and Marcus Jefferson are our leaders,” he said. “And we just need to find a few more pieces to fit around those guys. We have about 15 of 22 positions set. We are just looking to fit the rest and find some backups."
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