With the graduation of some key players, Corydon Central will be looking for standouts to fill the void.
A trio of three-year starters are gone from the lineup: receiver Tyler Ross, offensive lineman Justin Yates and starting quarterback Chase Burton.
“This is kind of a reloading year for us,” said coach Darin Ward. “We’re looking for some guys to step up.”
The Panthers opened last season with six straight wins and finished 8-3. Two of those losses were to Mid-Southern foe Charlestown.
Ward said the team’s original strategy on offense was altered from a run-based to pass-oriented scheme.
“We had to throw the ball a little more than we wanted to,” he said.
Ward said the plan this year is to rely more on a ground attack.
“That’s the style we’d like to play,” he said. “It helps us because it allows us to be more physical on offense and minimize other teams’ possession of the ball when the clock is running. Back in 2009, when I came back, that was what we focused on. We had to get away from that last year because we didn’t have the ability to run effectively.”
Although the Panthers have some slots to fill, they won’t be without team leaders. They boast 16 seniors including returning linemen Morgan Jones and Hayden Thomas. Corydon’s top strength is depth on both lines, particularly the offensive line.
“That creates good competition in practice,” Ward said.
Junior David Brann, who started at guard last year but missed the season after suffering an ACL injury in the first game, returns and moves to center.
“He’s the model of a student-athlete,” Ward said of Brann.
Also back is linebacker/running back Alex McAfee, who missed several games last season with mononucleosis.
The linebacker contingent is strong with veteran starters Logan Behagg and Jason Wisman. Defensive end Nathan Schnitt, a junior, is a returning starter expected to have an impact.
“It’s a matter of utilizing their experience and bringing some of the others along,” Ward said.
Corydon continues to work on adding depth to its secondary.
The likely starter at quarterback is sophomore Lannis Buck, who saw some playing time as a freshman. A main cog in the offense is senior wide receiver Brayden Lander.
The backfield is bolstered by Floyd Central transfer Alex Newton, a junior running back.
When asked to describe his team, Ward said “hungry.”
“We feel really good about how we played last year, and we’ll take eight wins every year, but our expectations have gone up around here.”