Short-handed Panthers facing a big challenge in season opener

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By Ray Hamill — The Panthers will go into battle with just 13 players on Friday night, as they welcome Kelseyville to McKinleyville High to kick off the new football season.

With injuries, grades and transfer rules all taking their toll early, the Mack roster will be short-handed for the opener, and that’s even with a couple of sophomores called up from the JV team.

Head coach Fel Barlow and his players know it will be a challenge, but it’s a challenge they’re embracing and one that one could build a lot of team camaraderie and confidence if they can succeed.

“We’ve got a whole new group and we’re trying to get them over Mount Everest,” Barlow said with a smile. “We’re going to use the whole play clock just so they won’t get tired. That’s what we’re rocking and rolling with.”

There are, however, some benefits from having a small roster.

“They’re a lot closer than other groups,” Barlow said of his players. “There’s only a few of them, and they understand we’ve got no substitutes, we’ve got to be together.”

Barlow has just four seniors on the roster, but three of them have established themselves as key leaders and will be heavily relied on.

That includes Willy Patton, who will switch from running back to quarterback this fall and also will play linebacker.

Fellow senior Ayden Hillis is also expected to play a key role at running back and linebacker, while Tyler Marsh returns at running back and defensive back as a third-year varsity starter.

“Tyler Marsh is going to do his thing this year,” Barlow said.

The team’s fourth senior is John Nicholas, a first-year player who will need to make an immediate impact at defensive end and receiver and is one of two starters who have never played before, along with sophomore receiver/defensive back Orphao Granda.

The game is also important for the two teams in terms of North Coast Section positioning, as both are Division-7 programs.

And Barlow is expecting the visitors to present a big challenge.

“They’ve got a good line,” the McKinleyville coach said. “They’e big up front. It’s going to be a battle.”

In terms of numbers, the future is bright for Mack, with a JV roster of 32.

The JVs kick off at 5 p.m. on Friday, followed by the varsity at 7:30 p.m.

1 reply »

  1. We sure love summer youth baseball… don’t really have these latter 2 lameoid issues with “school sports”…

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