The Panther football team is looking forward to building on what it started last year under second-year Head Coach Jesse Montalto. The Panthers were 3-7 in 2014 with a 39-7 bowl game win to close out the season. Coach Montalto is anticipating a winning season this year and another bowl game appearance and win.
"With the coaching staff in place the transition to this fall season has been much easier than last year," says Coach Montalto. "The kids are working really hard."
The Panthers have a good group of returners to help lead the team. "Xavier Washpun is the leading returner with over 500 rushing yards last year, including four touchdowns," said Montalto. "We have great leadership in this group of sophomores and amazing work ethics."
Washpun adds, "We have improved a lot since last year and we are looking good on the field."
Sophomore returners Tad Steffensen and Mitch Wieland are also going into the season with high hopes and good feelings for this year. "Playing with this group of guys feels like family," commented Steffensen. "There is a good core group of guys that came back from last year and incoming group is fitting right in. It should be a fun year." Wieland is looking forward to his second year with Coach Montalto. "It's a better feel and atmosphere already this year. I really like the style the coaches are using with a lot of playing time for guys and the quick play. It is easy to stay motivated for the next play."
The Panthers will open with an away scrimmage against Grand View University on Wednesday, Aug. 19, at 7 pm. "The league is always tough where every game we have to bring our best," commented Montalto. "By the end of the year we will have played six of the top 20 teams, if not more."
Along with looking to his returners for leadership, Coach Montalto is looking forward to seeing what the new players can bring to the game. On defense, newcomer Ryan Guthrie will be a player to watch. "I am excited to see what he will bring to the team," commented Montalto. "He looked great in fall camps."
"On the offensive side of the game, Jamarius Way will bring an explosive presence that we didn't have last year in the receiving core," said Montalto.
The Panthers will host their first home game on Thursday, Aug. 27, at 6 pm against Dodge City Community College. "We have a good group of kids who are working hard," says Coach Montalto. "We are excited about the talent in the group and the way they are working together."