For years, it seemed you didn't even have to look at the roster to know that Putnam City North was going to be good. Surely a playoff-quality team, and maybe challenging for a state title.
But with back-to-back four-win seasons, those days are gone.
Preseason projections on the Panthers haven't been the best, with opposing coaches predicting them to miss the playoffs for the third straight year, and media picking them in the bottom half — as low as No. 25 in one case — of the 32-team Class 6A field.
The message has been received at PC North.
“There's lots of motivation around here right now,” receiver/defensive back Alex Clark said. “A lot of us started last year and we're seniors. We want to go further. We're tired of 4-6. We're tired of people looking at us like this isn't a very good program.
“We haven't been getting any respect and we're trying to earn it this year.”
The 2011 season started with a 2-1 record, but the Panthers didn't find the win column again until winning the last two games of the year. You can bet Week 1 will be big, with the rivalry game against Putnam City, which the Pirates have won the last two years.
One big difference from a year ago for the Panthers, quarterback John Robert Simon is much more comfortable in his second season leading the offense. And he has experienced players around him as well.