Here come those Panthers with a lot to prove and little to prove at the same time.
Snider does Snider things and for that reason, it gets far more credit than doubt and rightfully so.
Early on, Uriah Buchanan (435 rushing yards, 9 touchdowns) is going to have to carry the load not just out of the backfield, but possibly for the offense. He is the only returning skill position player in the Panther lineup with the graduation of Langston Leveall and the loss of De’Alcapone Veazy, who relocated to Colorado.
It will be up to Ke’ron Billingsley to take over the quarterback spot with the graduation of multi-year starter Luke Haupert. Billingsley didn’t take too many snaps a season ago but was a perfect 5-of-5 when he did throw the ball. The senior Billingsley starts at QB1, with junior Aaron Vance available as a backup.
No matter who throws the ball, they will have mostly new receivers to handle those throws with Boston Conley, Allen Bolton and Trevor Jarvis stepping up while Jack Langas returns to the starting role at tight end. Just 54 yards of receiving from 2022 returns to the lineup.
Langas will also help protect the front line with three returning offensive linemen, led by tackle Ethan Dodson. The line will also return Pau Lian and Carter Wilson with the returning trio aided by Aiden Igney, Reece Burns, Ethan Leal and Sam Haxton.
Five defensive starters are back, punctuated by one of the area’s best and hardest-hitting linebackers in Lukas Rohrbacher. Rohrbacher (86 tackles, 2 sacks) has proven to be a game changer and will be joined in the linebacker corps by Jake Tippmann, Landin Fry, Nate Ruffin and Dallas Woodson. The defensive line will see two returning starters with Will Kelso and Adam Blakey back; Isaac Cruz and RJ Nichter will join them on the defensive front.
The real strength for Snider’s defense could be an experienced secondary. Senior Austin Ganaway (27 tackles, 2 INT) has spent two years starting in the defensive backfield. He will be joined by fellow returning starters Levi Overholser (37 tackles, 2 INT), Brandon Logan (50 tackles, 3 INT) and Jamarion Kalagbodi while Javarus Bowers will add to the depth.
“We are going to be successful if our senior class cares more about the team than they do themselves, they embrace the attitude of hard work and value it as the key to our success and they become servant leaders in our program,” Snider coach Kurt Tippmann said.
This is Snider. The Panthers have a deep history for a reason.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
Carroll is Carroll.
And behind that, the Panthers do have some holes to fill that we are waiting to see how they work themselves out. There are questions at quarterback with Billingsley and Vance, but more because we have been used to Haupert, so any change will be an odd one.
Replacing multiple all-state guys, key skill position guys and defensive impact players is not easy. Snider is is a well-oiled machine but until we see how well this new roster comes together, the Panthers will sit at a solid No. 2.
September 15 vs. Carroll
This game could serve as a de facto division title game in Week 5. They are, in OTH’s estimation, the top two teams in the area, let alone the SAC. This will be a great test of Snider’s secondary and, more importantly it will be a test of staying sharp.
While Snider opens the season with tough games opposite Warren Central and East Noble, Week 3 and 4 shouldn’t be as challenging.
Can Snider come off games against two lower-tier SAC teams and be sharp against the area’s top squad?
Brandon Logan, junior, defensive back
The all-out, fly around athlete can make a big difference in the defensive backfield as teams test the long game. He has the potential to be one of the best players in the state if he interrupts opposing passing schemes as well as he has the chance to.
Also, watch out for him on kick returners with his speed and decision making, turning him into an instant threat.