MERRYVILLE, La. (KPLC) - In 2018, Merryville advanced to the second round of the Class 1A playoffs for the second straight year, which marked a newfound consistency for the Panthers. This year the team wants to take the next step.
“Every team’s goal is to go to the dome," said Merryville receiver Zachary Beck, "but ours is to bring home the district title.”
“We’re wanting to win. That’s one thing right there. We want at least seven wins," said Merryville lineman Hunter Benoit. "Our main goal if is the district title, we want to bring it back to Merryville.”
The Panthers have shoes to fill on the offensive side of the ball, only returning five starters from a year ago. But, despite the talent lost, coach Jones believes their multiple formation offense will be the team’s bread and butter.
“We’re going to add a little to the offense. A little multi-phase game that hopefully, no one has seen. We’re going to use that to propel into the next year," admitted Merryville coach Randy Jones. "That’s what we are trying to do. Build on every year and get better and better.”
The main catalyst returning on offense is running back Cam’ron Williams. The sophomore is back after finishing with over 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2018.
The biggest change offensively will be under center as the Panthers lost two-year starter Connor Pruitt to graduation. The team will now look to junior Blaise Duncan to take the snaps.
“Blaise brings a calm demeanor and has the ability to lead without yelling or screaming. It’s really a nice way to watch a young man, who’s a junior, step up into a role that he hasn’t been in," said Jones. "So far, in the spring, we’re able to see his ability to throw it and to be able to run the team and that’s a huge plus for us.”
Defensively, Merryville will continue with the 4-3. The Panthers welcome back just six starters from a year ago, so finding their defensive identity will take some time.
“The bulk of that responsibility falls in our seniors’ hands. Bryten Cooley who’s our middle linebacker and Tyler Belcher. We lost a little bit in the interior, but our secondary is still intact," Jones admitted. "We feel good about our secondary, but we do have some guys who need to step up on the defensive line.”
With a firm goal in mind and a desire to keep on improving, the Panthers are hoping to continue the run that ended last year. Merryville won five of its last seven games to close the season.
“[Our goal for the season is] To make it memorable. To put a high expectation on everyone,” Merryville linebacker Bryten Cooley said. “To hopefully one day be able to tell your kids how good you did.”