Coming off back-to-back 4-6 seasons, there's a lot of motivation at Putnam City North, and there's a lot of confidence, too, starting with the Panthers' quarterback.
John Robert Simon enters his second year as the team's starter behind center, and is feeling much more comfortable leading the offense.
An athletic left-hander, Simon provides dual-threat capabilities from the QB position, enabling the Panthers to run an option look out of the shotgun, along with straight handoffs and a spread passing attack.
“It's tough that first year for anybody to step into 6A football,” coach Bob Wilson said. “He was having a lot of things thrown at him last year, and we were trying to up-tempo the offense. Through the spring and summer, he got a lot more comfortable with where he's at. You can tell by the way he's throwing the football and how he carries himself on the field.”
Simon has some experienced receivers in Alex Clark and Robert Davis, with some other young and talented wideouts to boost the offense. At running back, Tae Moore, Nathaniel Ocran and Larry Butler each bring different skill sets to the position, giving the Panthers a good mix out of the backfield.
The offensive line is mostly new, though Cole Morris, Matt Custer and Christian Glocke anchor the unit.
“The offensive line is always a key, no matter what level of football you're talking about, but it will definitely be important for us to find some guys we're comfortable with up there,” Wilson said. “Skill-wise, we're OK. We've got some guys who can run and catch the football. Up front will be the key, but the guys are working hard.”
Defensively, the Panthers will count heavily on their back seven, with returning players like Clark, Roosevelt Turner and Ruben Hunter in the mix.
Wilson focused on setting up a tough preseason schedule with scrimmages against Lawton and Edmond Santa Fe to get his squad ready for the season, in hopes of getting the Panthers back to the playoffs.
“When I first came here, we had been known for scrimmaging good people,” he said. “I feel like that's the way you get better. We need to find a way to start getting better, and hopefully those scrimmages do that and get us ready for that first game.”