A former high school quarterback himself, first-year Putnam City North coach Rod Richardson knows the value of having an experienced quarterback running the offense.
And Richardson hopes that his returning starter, Chase Sparks, will help the Panthers find success against a challenging schedule in Class 6A-I.
“It’s huge, because he’s seen all the stunts and understands what’s going on,” Richardson said. “He understands what you’re thinking and can make some decisions on his own. He can get you in and out of certain plays. There are no great plays, but he can get you out of the really bad ones.
“He’s an extension of the coaches on the field, and that’s where it’ll really help.”
Sparks is already noticing a difference from last year to this year.
“The game has slowed way down,” he said. “I think that’ll really help me to be able to see the defense and find the open holes.”
The versatility of senior Logan Price will be valuable to the offense, giving Richardson the option to line him up in the backfield, at tight end or as a slot receiver.
“He can move all over,” the coach said. “He can play linebacker or defensive end on defense. We can move him around on offense, and he’s smart enough to understand it. We’ll use him all different kinds of ways.”
Price is being recruited by a variety of programs, and was invited to a camp at Harvard over the summer.
Defensively, the Panthers are excited about what noseguard Jamal Barkus provides. The 6-foot, 240-pound junior has a combination of strength and speed that allows him to disrupt plays up the middle.
“He moves extremely well,” Richardson said. “He’s a guy other teams are going to have to game plan for. We haven’t had that guy on the defensive line that people have to double team, and I think teams will have to double him.
Brandon Jackson, a 6-foot-1 cornerback, has the ability to take away his side of the field in coverage, which will be a huge asset.
Riley Sterling also returns at safety. Sterling missed the first half of last season, and PC North went 4-1 — including wins over Norman North and Midwest City — after he returned.