Panthers’ road warriors rolling

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 11, 2003

The season’s just started but things are rolling for Chris Raymond and his Southside Panthers.

Now, the Panthers are ready to get rolling, literally.

Due to a scheduling quirk, the Panthers play seven road games this season.

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“With re-alignment the state assigned the games and we ended up with three (at home),” Raymond said. “It’s just a bad year, next year it’ll be five and five.”

The next stop on the Panthers’ region-wide tour is Handley. Handley presents a challenge for Raymond’s senior-laden squad, but it’s one that the coach thinks they can handle.

“The senior leadership we have is a plus,” Raymond said.

That leadership shines mostly on the defensive side of the ball.

The Panthers opened the season with a slug-fest win over rival Selma.

It was a victory earned by the defense.

The defense carried the Panthers for three and a half quarters until quarterback Darryl Watts came through with two touchdowns in the final five minutes.

Last week, the offense caught up.

Led by the STJ’s Player of the Week, Tony Miles, the Panthers scored 28 points in a win over offensive powerhouse Saint James High School.

With both the offense and defense clicking, the Panthers look ready to go on the road and do some damage in Class 4A, Region 3.

“We’re where we want to be,” star linebacker Gerarde Shanks said. “We pretty much had our minds set on being undefeated.”

In two games, Shanks has 25-and-a-half tackles for a stingy defense that has allowed just 17 points so far.

“We’re going to be pretty hard to beat,” Shanks said. “(But) everybody’s got to step up and work harder to make our goals.”

Raymond said before the season started that the defense would have to carry the offense through the first three or four games.

But with Miles exploding for 205 yards and three touchdowns last week, the offense seems to have caught up.

“Right now, I’m expecting high things from the offense,” Raymond said. “(But) I don’t which group is going to show up.

I think if we can establish the running game every night we’ll be fine.”

Raymond expects Handley to try to pound at the Panthers defense with a power running game of its’ own.

It’s a strategy that plays right into the teeth of the Panthers’ defense.

“That’s going to play in our favor,” Raymond said. “We’re going to try and stuff the run and force the pass.”

“They ain’t doing things we haven’t seen before,” Shanks said. “We’ve got to get things rolling early instead of late in the game. Instead of keeping it close, we’ve got to go ahead and jump out.”

With Handley expected to try and return the favor, the Panthers offensive line could make the difference.

“The offensive line is stepping up,” Raymond said.

Friday night, the Panthers’ long road trip begins.

It’ll be up to Shanks, Miles, Watts and their teammates to decide where it ends.