Extensive turnover at the varsity level - especially at key skill positions – has taken place this 2013 football season at Salisbury.
However, this is nothing new to a Panthers program that seems to mirror this trait about every couple of years yet Salisbury has remained resilient in having several successful football campaigns under head coach Kirk Stott who enters his 7th year at the helm.
“We had several key players play huge for us all year long to put a great postseason run together,” said coach Stott. “Our depth of athletes saved our season as we played through several injuries to key players early in the year, but we were able to be healthy going into districts and the kids gave us an exciting ride to the semifinals.”
Salisbury returns 13 lettermen, including five who gained some significant varsity playing time, from last year’s Panthers team that posted a 12-2 overall record, went 4-1 in the Lewis & Clark Conference.
Salisbury reached the Class 1 state semifinals last November where they fell to eventual state champion Penney-Hamilton by a tough 48-0 score.
Stott’s football philosophy of playing aggressive and physical has been no secret year-in and year-out, and this season is no different.
The Panthers last year out-scored their opponents by a 35-to-10 point margin going into their season ending loss. Their other defeat was a disappointing 33-27 setback to LCC arch rival Westran in Week 7 of the regular season.
“I want my players to arrive to the football with a purpose on defense, and offensively keep blocking until the whistle sounds,” Stock said. “I want my teams to be fundamentally sound and mentally disciplined.”
“My goal is to be the better conditioned team that wears out their opponents in the second half.”
Stott said his squad has athletes in the backfield having big play potential, and he believes junior tight end Keegan Wyatt (21 catches, 322 yds, 4 TDs) standing at 6’6 will cause some tough match-up problems for opposing defenses.
Wyatt will be a key outlet target for first year quarterback Brady Francis’ strengths of running an offensive scheme that will change from having double tight ends to a spread on any given snap.
The 6’3 junior is succeeding his brother Austin (2013 grad) as the team’s field general from a team that averaged 212 rushing yards and 130 more from the air against opponents.
Brady Francis is making the transition from receiver to quarterback, and coach Stott said Brady is very athletic who not only likes to tuck the ball under and run, but is a gifted quarterback who can throw the football on the run.
“I think we will be able to balance out our attack between run and pass as Brady can throw the ball very well,” said Stott.
Page 2 of 2 - Kyle Hinkle, a 6’3 junior, along with 5’10 senior Trevor Stewart and sophomore Jordan Clark will share wide receiver duties.
Daniel Linneman, a 5’10, 155 lbs. junior, returns as a tailback that ran the ball sparingly a year ago, and senior John Oliver (6’1, 320) returns at guard and at the D-line.
History once again repeats itself when it comes to the stock featured on the Salisbury front line, and that’s big and physical. Last year’s defensive unit yielded an average of 92 rushing yards and 68 passing yards per contest.
“Defensively we will look for 11 guys who will fly around the field looking for a collision and tackle well,” said Stott.
Francis is the leading returning tackler having 74 total tackles and 3 INTs from his linebacker position. Also returning are sophomore end Ben Baer (5’10, 245) who collected 51 tackles and had three sacks, and senior tackle Hunter Creech (5’10, 280) who came away with 27 total tackles a year ago.
The Panthers travel to Memphis and play Scotland County as their first opponent of the 2013 season.
Salisbury’s home opener is Sept. 13 against Schuyler County of Queen City, and homecoming will be celebrated Sept. 20 when the Raiders of North Shelby High School come to town.