Panthers filling large shoes in spring football practice

Published 5:00 am Thursday, May 12, 2005

Attempts to fill large shoes have been a priority during OleBrook’s spring football practice. Head coach Tucker Peavey mustreplace 17 starters from his 2004 Class 4A state championshipsquad.

Peavey and his staff will give the Panthers a final examThursday in the Cellular South Spring Jamboree at Franklin Countyin Meadville. The Panthers meet Tylertown at 4 p.m. and WilkinsonCounty at 5 p.m. in a controlled, game-style format.

As far as hopefuls are concerned, the numbers during springdrills have been encouraging. As many as 92 players haveparticipated.

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“On a consistent basis, we probably have around 75 players,”said Peavey. “Some of our eighth graders haven’t been able to makeevery practice.”

Peavey’s Panthers won their first-ever Class 4A state title lastDecember, beating Clarksdale 29-23. They finished 14-1 lastseason.

The list of graduated starters reads like a BHS Sports Hall ofFame. On offense, the group includes quarterback Jimmy Johns,running back Ronny McNulty, wide receivers Bud Chatman and TaureanJones, tight end Michael Thrasher, right tackle Kody Perrett, rightguard Tyler Gatlin, center Grant McDonnieal, left guard Aaron Mooreand left tackle Zack Ray.

On defense, the graduated starters include tackle Jessie Bowman,end Bart Sias, and linebackers Darius Perkins and Eric Edwards.Punter Brandt Hinton has elected to give up football andconcentrate on baseball.

“We do have a bunch of new faces out there,” said Peavey.

Offensively, running back should be strong. Charles Wilson was astarter at running back while Ronny McNulty was sidelined. Widereceiver Montral Smith returns. The Panthers boast an outstandingplacekicker in junior Will Thibodeaux. He also is working aspunter.

At quarterback, rising sophomore Charles Rancifer and ChaseMcIntyre, a junior next fall, are the leading candidates.

“Both quarterbacks are progressing real well,” said Peavey. “Weare so inexperienced up front, it’s hard to evaluate because of thenew blocking assignments.”

Peavey said Wilson has had a good spring. Cody Ratcliff is atrunning back. A sprained ankle has put veteran Patrick Ayers on thesidelines most of the spring.

Montral Smith. Marcus Smith and Grant Heathcock are the leadersat wide receiver.

At tight end, Semmie Yarbrough and Teddy London have beensharing time.

The offensive line will determine Ole Brook’s level of successon offense. Peavey said Darion Smith at left tackle, Skyler Smithat left guard, Nick Norwyta at center, Taylor Newman at right guardand P.J. Brown at right tackle have moved to the front.

“We are pretty thin in the line,” Peavey admitted. He said JerryDickey, Grady Autman, Jonathan Tyler and Courtney Clark are showingsome potential.

Also on the bright side, seven starters return on defense. “Weare not testing them a whole lot this spring,” said Peavey. “We arefaster than we have been on defense.”

At defensive end are Bart Sias, Varris Kees and Larry Winters.Working at tackle are Virgil Sanders, Garrion Crockett and RandyMerchant.

At linebacker are Marlon Dixon, T.J. Qualls, and AmonHerring.

At free safety is R.J. Jenkins. Demetrius Bryant is at strongsafety. At cornerback are Jerome Avery and Nick Lee.

Peavey said he is looking forward to Thursday’s jamboree. “Weneed to practice against somebody else. We need some work againstsome other teams. We’ll just run a set number of plays. Then we’llswitch and play defense.”

Neither punts nor kickoffs will be used during the jamboree.Extra points can be kicked.

There will be two games going simultaneously, on each side ofthe 50-yard line.

“We have been working on fundamentals in practice,” said Peavey.”We want to give everybody a chance to play.”