SETH, W.Va. – The Tug Valley Panthers will begin their regular season on the road against the Sherman Tide on Friday night.
Tug Valley is primed and ready after a fair showing during the pre-season with hopes of continuing their two year play-off push. The Last two years have gone well for the Panthers thanks to well-rounded senior classes. The Panthers have a core group of seniors this year and return a monster junior class.
Head Coach Tony Clusky has done well with the Panthers offense, leaving opposing defenses with a guessing game of what the Panthers will run and out of what formation. The Panthers junior class is ready to fill the skill positions while they run behind a veteran line that has excelled during the last few seasons.
Sherman however, has not done so well during the last two seasons. The Tide has finished 1-9 during 2014 season and the 2015 season. Head Coach J.D. Fairchild will be entering his fourth year as the Tide’s coach.
This season could go different for the Tide as they return numerous key players. Layne Daniel will return to tether the offensive line together. Daniel has a big frame and will not be easy to get around. Also returning for the Tide will be Bailey Kirk, the team’s quarterback. Kirk is a big barreling signal caller, who can work from under center or from the shotgun position. Kirk has the ability to throw the deep ball but with weapons like Austin Cooper and Tyler Pettry the Tide often stays tight with bubble screens and slant routes.
The Panthers offense will need to keep an eye on John Dickens, the Tide’s defensive-end. Dickens mostly works the left side but could be switched to the Panthers weak side to create pressure. Panthers quarterback Johnathan Blankenship might not want to get too comfortable in the pocket without knowing where Dickens is at on the defensive side.
Blankenship will assume the duties of quarterback after Tyler Conley graduated last year. No worries are felt in Panther Nation with Blankenship taking the lead. Blankenship is a natural athlete with a high I.Q. The Panthers have a good backfield duo in the making this year with Noah Lucas and Levi Davis. Davis can also be used in the split end position but can be really effective with Lucas in front as a blocker.
During the pre-season Coach Clusky remarked that he is satisfied with his skill players, but will be leaning heavily on his offensive and defensive lineman. Assistant Coach Justin Crawford has worked hard with the boys all summer to get them ready.
The Panthers will kick-off the season at Sherman on Friday, game time is set for 7:30 p.m. The Panthers will settle for nothing less than continuing the tradition of improving year after year and if that goes according to plan the Panthers should be shooting for a play-off berth this season.
(William Plaster is the sports reporter for the Williamson Daily News, he can be reached at 304-235-4242 ext. 2274 or at [email protected] on on twitter @sidplaster.)