Panthers welcome challenge of moving up
Ron Massey is entering his second season at Piedmont High, and the Panthers are getting more comfortable with the seasoned football coach.
Massey, who coached at A.L. Brown for 11 years, led Piedmont to a 5-7 record in 2012.
"We've kind of got everything figured out right now," said Panthers senior tackle Cale Helms when asked the difference between last year and this year. "We're used to our coaches and we know all the plays really well. I think we'll have a great year."
Helms and the Panthers open the 2013 season at Hickory Ridge on Aug. 23.
The 6-foot, 250-pound right tackle is one of five returning starters on the offensive line, which is expected to protect junior quarterback Cameron Tripp (6-6, 200).
Tripp thew for six touchdowns while getting regular reps behind starter Sawyer Baucom last season. Baucom threw for 1,089 yards with 11 scores and seven interceptions in 2012. He also ran for nine TDs.
"Tripp's doing really well," said senior tailback Matt Fisher. "He's got a lot of recruiters looking at him. He's a big guy. He's been in the weight room with me working really hard."
Fisher, who rushed for six touchdowns a year ago, is expected to be the primary ball carrier in 2013. He takes over for the graduated Brandon Gentry, who ran 128 times for 871 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012.
"He hits the holes hard and he can make a move if he needs to," said Helms of Fisher. "He's good in the open field.
Fisher (5-10, 170) is excited to run behind a veteran offensive line.
"I've been running with them since sixth grade, so I'm real familiar with them," said Fisher. "I've been working real hard in the offseason on my speed. I've been working more legs than arms and I feel like I've gotten faster."
The Panthers have a more challenging schedule this season.
They have jumped from 2A to 3A via realignment, and join a conference with Weddington, Marvin Ridge, Sun Valley, Cuthbertson and Anson County.
Sun Valley is moving down to 3A while Cuthbertson is bumping up to 3A.
The Cavs and Panthers both played in the Rocky River Conference the last four years.
"They'll be bigger, stronger and faster players, but I think we'll be fine," said Helms of changing classes. "I really don't think it will hurt us at all."
Fisher sees the jump to 3A as an opportunity.
"We have to work harder and can't settle for anything," said Fisher. "In 2A we were just getting by, but this year we want to come out and impress people. We're not just going to be that Piedmont team that everybody circles as a win on their schedule. We want to start the season out strong and prove a point."
High school football practice begins on Aug. 1.
Aug. 23^at Hickory Ridge
Aug. 30^Porter Ridge
Sept. 13^Forest Hills
Sept. 27^at CATA
Oct. 4^West Stanly
Oct. 11^at Sun Valley
Oct. 18^at Anson
Oct. 25^Marvin Ridge
Nov. 8^at Cuthbertson