After a third consecutive state playoff appearance in 2013, expectations are running high for the 2014 Lakeside High School Panthers football team and they are embracing them.
“I would say a successful season is going at least two or three rounds in the playoffs,” said first-year head coach Steve Hibbitts, who joined the Panthers after helming the Westside program. “Our goal is to go all the way. I feel like with this team, they could. They really feel like they could do that.”
It’s hard to discount that feeling as they return a dearth of talent and experience in all facets of the game.
Perhaps the biggest question comes at quarterback where junior Nick Patterson and senior Zaccheus Banks are vying to replace Hunter Banks. Hibbitts likes what he has seen to date.
“Coming into summer and me as a new coach, I saw Nick as a quarterback who got a lot of reps last year, had a good year on JV, did a great job,” Hibbitts said. “Zaccheus has really pushed him. I could go with either one of those guys and feel comfortable as a head coach just because of how far Zaccheus has come.”
The signal caller will have speedy wide receivers B.J. Raymond and Stephen Houzah as targets. Raymond had 37 catches for 596 yards and six touchdowns and had a 65-yard punt return for touchdown. Houzah went 16-235 and two scores, racked up 764 yards on 20 kickoff returns with three touchdowns, including a 98-yarder.
Taking handoffs will be running backs Jalen Harrison, Andrew Studstill and Josh Jones. The three backs combined for 984 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2013. They are not worried about getting their share of touches.
“I know when I’m not in they’re going to be fine,” Jones said. “When I’m out there I’m going to do what I need to do. It’s not really competition, it’s knowing the other one can do just as good.”
Hibbitts expects senior center Nick McGee to continue to anchor the line as he has and is excited by the prospct of 6-foot-5, 285-pound junior Scout Sleigh.
Defensively, the Panthers should be stout, led by 2013 Region 2-AAAAA Defensive Player of the Year Rashad Roundtree.
“Overall, they’re a solid group and you throw in some of those big playmakers, we’re really excited about it,” Hibbitts said.
The Panthers open Friday at North Augusta, which has won nine games or more each year since 2009. The Panthers won’t judge the season by one game.
“If we go to state and take it, that’s success to us,” Harrison said.