2020 was supposed to see Daviess County take a big step into contention, instead they struggled to hold there own. Now with all the pieces in place, will 2021 finally be the year of the Panther?
"Last season, I would say, to some degree, a disappointment," says Daviess County head coach Matt Brannon.
"We were really close to being a great team," says Daviess County senior tight end/linebacker Parker Crews.
"Definitely we're going into this year with a chip on our shoulder," says Daviess County senior quarterback Joe Hunphreys.
After a decade of being stuck in also-ran status, the Daviess County football team appeared poised for title contention last year. However, a strong start to the regular season devolved into a 1-and-3 finish and a heartbreaking loss to Henderson County in the opening round of the playoffs.
"The preseason, the preparation," says Brannon, "all the rollercoaster of emotions that you go through as a team, took a toll on us. We were fortunate to get through, not to have to deal with that many quarantine issues. But I do think it affected us in terms of our potential of what we did on the field."
"We went 3-and-5," says Humphreys, "missed out on a couple of games we could have won. We had a couple of close games throughout the year that we lost in the final quarter."
"I think that this year with all the experience and adding another year, we really can be a great team," says Crews.
Great teams start with great quarterbacks, and Panthers head coach Matt Brannon has one in Joe Humphreys. A third year starter who has quietly compiled impressive numbers in the shadow of his crosstown rival, Gavin Wimsatt of Owensboro. Last season, Humphreys threw for 21 touchdowns, ran for seven more, while rushing for nearly 500 yards on the ground.
"Joe has a unique set of gifts," says Brannon. "For one he's extremely athletic. Probably the best athlete, if not one of the best athletes, that I've ever coached. What you need out of your quarterback is his leadership, and that's the one the one thing he's been focused on, going to these camps and playing with these elite players. And I think that's probably the biggest growth that he's had since last year. He's always been a leader by what he does. Now it's by what he's saying and what he's doing."
"I've just been putting in a lot of work for myself and this team," says Hunphreys. "Obviouly I want the best for the team and I want to win games with them."
And that's only the beginning on offense. Humphrey's has nearly all his weapons back, including thousand yard rusher Bryson Parm, as well as wide receivers Decker Renfrow and Max Dees. The lone area of concern is the line, with holes to fill.
"Losing those three linemen is a challenge," says Brannon, "but we have some really talented young guys that are going to step in. But I'm really excited about what we have. Our starting center, Isaac Blue is back, who plays at a very high level. Offensively, we should be explosive this year."
"We're going to be a real hard offense to stop," says Humphreys. "We have all of our returning players back on offense, skill position-wise. Anytime a defense, they back up and are playing for the pass, we just hand it off to Parm and let him do his thing."
"We're going to be able to score points," says Crews. "I don't think that's a problem at all. We've got the explosiveness. We've got the quarterback. I just think that if we put it all together, we'll be great."
While the Panthers offense is set to light up the scoreboard, the hope is that a more experienced Daviess County defense will improve on the unit that gave up nearly 36 points a contest in 2020.
"We struggled a little bit late defensively, last year," says Brannon. "So, we went back to the basics. Started from square one on tackling ability. Schematically, we've slowed down, teaching the kids how the puzzle fits, where each player fits into the scheme and what their responsibilities are. The experience that we have in our back seven, all four DBs and our three linebackers. We're really excited about showing that we can be a dominant defense this year."
"A lot of physicallness," says Crews. "I think that we can compete with any team in the region or in the state, physically."
The Panthers open up the season on the road tomorrow night at Meade County.