Catamount football looking to improve off successful ’13 campaign

After graduating a strong 2014 class, the Catamounts were able to find new leadership as they aim to keep a winning tradition.

Ian Pierno, Sports Editor

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12 September 2014: Panther Creek traveled to Jordan High as they improved to 2-1 in a 41-0 rout.

Ashley Voss
12 September 2014: Panther Creek traveled to Jordan High as they improved to 2-1 in a 41-0 rout.

Cary, NC – In 2013, the Catamounts were only a field goal away from a first place finish in the SWAC. They were led by a 2014 class that sent eight players (Laster/Wise: Navy, Betts: Methodist, Slusser: Catawba, McClain: NCCU, Byers: Army, Storey: Liberty, Payne: Howard) to compete in college. Many high school teams that boast a strong senior class often see their performance falter the following year. Say this to any member of this year’s Catamount squad and they’ll be quick to tell you differently. The Catamounts returned several key skill players on offense, including quarterback Brenden Magner (2015), and speedy receivers, Tre Sullivan (2015), and Caleb Cross (2016). The hole that 2013 SWAC Offensive POY Dorrel McClain left at runningback was filled by transfer-student Toney Bass (2016). Bass transferred to Panther Creek after amassing over 500 rushing yards and eight touchdowns as a member of the 2013 3A State Champions, Southern Durham High School. On defense, the Catamounts lost several key players, but they’re no unit to scoff at. Ryan Callaghan (2015) mans this middle of the field as the team’s top linebacker; defensive backs Dallas Hancock, Juwan Byrd, Quran Moon, and Isaiah Laster are looking to prove they may be the best secondary in the conference.

The team started working out this summer, where they participated in grueling three hour practices. They tended to start practices in the weight room under the instruction of Coach Black. After, the players would head outside to work on skills and basic fundamentals. Towards the end of the summer, they began to implement their plays and schemes; most notably, Coach Crocker’s go-to spread formation on offense. A couple weeks before the season-opener, the players received full-pads to make sure their tackling techniques were efficient and safe.

The season opened with a home game against Wake Forest High School and North Carolina’s second-ranked RB, Bryce Love (ESPN300). The Catamounts never got a rhythm going on offense until the fourth-quarter when Magner called his own number on a QB draw to narrow the Cougars’ lead down to 23-6. Despite what appeared to be a lopsided match-up, the Catamount defense only surrendered 21-points and held the Wake Forest passing game to under 50 yards. Their play was highlighted by an athletic interception from Byrd in the first half, further solidifying their reputation as one of the best pass-covering teams in the area. Since their game at Panther Creek, Wake Forest has averaged over 45ppg. 6’4″, 265-pound Senior left tackle Zac Safron said the Catamounts came into the game with the wrong mindset, “I feel a lot of us came in thinking, wow, Wake Forest and Love are so good, it’ll be really difficult to beat them.” Tre Sullivan noted it was a tough opponent to open the season with, “I was surprised by how well my younger teammates stepped up to the expectations laid by the class of 2014. Not many players experience their first-ever varsity game against the state runner-ups. My boys adjusted greatly to the higher level of play and I’m excited to see where it takes us as a team.”

Luckily for the Catamounts, they had two weeks to prepare before their next game against Rolesville High School. Sullivan told PCNN, “After the first game as a team, we saw nothing but high potential and many small details we could fix to become a winning team. We had more intensity at practice and were ready to compete.” Safron commented on how the offense worked on changing their mindset, “On offense we had a lot of mental errors, we have to know how talented we are and just execute and do the things we’ve been taught, during those two weeks of practice we watched a lot of film as a group, and really came together as an offense during practice and started syncing.” The results paid off as Panther Creek made a statement in a 41-19 win which featured passing touchdowns from Magner, Dom Samson (2016), and Jordan Cain (2015).

The momentum carried into the following week as Panther Creek traveled down to Jordan high school in which they took the lead and never let up in a 41-0 rout. Panther Creek’s defense held Jordan to a measly 19 yards of offense before their final drive in the fourth quarter (which brought them to 64). Wide Receiver Diamante Taylor scored twice, both on receptions from Magner.

This Friday, the Catamounts will play Leesville Road High School at home in a rematch of last year’s heated game in which Panther Creek came back from an 18-7 deficit to win 35-21, largely in part to five touchdowns from Dorrel McClain. A lot of local fans considered the win flukey, as Leesville and their star ATH Braxton Berrios were ranked #1 in the area before kickoff. DB Dallas Hancock is eager to prove his Catamounts can get the same result, “We are going into the game with confidence. We know they shouldn’t beat us, we’re an even better team this year.”

The game will be at home, with kick-off set for 7:30pm. All eyes will be on Coach Crocker and the Catamounts to see if they can keep the momentum going.

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