Powell Panthers

North Knox County is the home of one of the toughest teams in the area on an annual basis in the Powell Panthers. New Head Coach Gary Stephens is realizing the benefits of building a winning tradition from the youth teams to the Panthers team that is making almost yearly trips to the playoffs.

Stephens takes over a strong program built from the ground up by departed Coach Clark Duncan, who resigned to accept the Athletics Director position at South-Doyle. The cupboard is certainly not bare for Stephens. Last season was typical as Powell finished 9-3 playing in the absolute toughest region in the State of Tennessee!

It is Coach Stephens staff that is perhaps the strength of the program as it includes former Panther players John Bruhin, David Hawkins and Matt Lowe along with Larry Stephens, Rusty Partin, Bob Dagley and Guy Ballinger.

Expectations, as usual, will be high in Powell as the Panthers prepare to open the campaign. "We should be competitive each Friday night," said the Powell Coach. "The community, coaching staff and players are very excited for the 2003 season to arrive!"

With a solid group of good players returning and influx of new talent, Coach Stephen's enthusiasm is justified. Powell wins football games with excellent hard nosed defense and a ball control offense that averaged 20 points per ballgame a year ago.

While the Panthers were a run oriented team last season, the offense may take on a more "airy" persona this year. Leading Powell's multiple offensive attack will be strong armed senior quarterback Cole Patrick (5'11" 181). Patrick did more handing off to running backs a year ago but will have the opportunity to air it out on a more regular basis this season. Patrick knows how to throw the football as he completed 71 of 136 passes for 983 yards and 9 touchdowns. He has a chance to earn postseason honors.

There are four primary receivers that Patrick will look downfield for on passing downs. Senior wideouts Josh Cole (5'8" 134), Zac Sherrod (6'2" 184) and Nate Slaton (5'8" 144) will get plenty of chances to catch the football and be a hero this fall. Junior Will Carpenter (5'11" 156) will also be called upon to be a good hands type guy.

Don't expect the Panthers to be one dimensional however as Coach Duncan loves to pound the rock with a strong run game. Tailback Cody Watts (5'10" 147) is an exciting young sophomore runner who must replace All State RB John Tudor who has moved on to college football. The fullback should be senior Richard Bridgeman (5'10" 196). A strong lead blocker, Bridgeman is also a capable ball carrier as he rushed 51 times for 159 yards a year ago. Bridgeman has a penchant for finding the endzone. He scored six touchdowns and is excellent in short yardage situations.

As usual, Powell will field one of the strongest offensive lines in the area. Anchoring this bunch of bullies will be senior center Logan Zellmer (6'1" 243). Juniors across the board will line up elsewhere up front. The guards should be behemoths Zane Bruhin (6'6" 324) and Logan McKinney (6'3" 308). The tackles should be C.J. Rhodes (6'3" 270) and Andrew Roach, a virtual midget compared to the rest of his brethren at 6'0" 186. Can you imagine feeding these guys or worse…lining up opposite them. OUCH!

The Powell defense will be hard pressed to match the efforts of the Panther "D" from 2002. End Chris Stewart (6'0" 221) is a good start. This senior clawed his way to 84 tackles and will be looked upon to supply leadership up front. The opposite end should be Roach. Bruhin will be an immovable force at tackle while fellow junior Brad Jones (5'11" 220) recorded 19 stops last season.

The Panthers' linebackers are young but Coach Duncan still considers his threesome a defensive strength heading into the season. Junior strongside LB Justin White (5'11" 187) had 17 tackles in limited action. Another junior will start in the middle. Corey Spradlen (6'0" 200) has a nasty attitude on the field and will be called upon to vastly improve on his 8 stops as he steps into the spotlight this year. The weakside LB should be Bridgeman who loves to apply the leather.

The secondary should be active. Slaton gets the nod at cornerback along with Carpenter. Patrick will see action at free safety where he made 12 tackles and picked off two interceptions a year ago. While Patrick concentrates on QB and needs rest at times, Watts and Cole will get playing time at safety as well.

The Powell Panthers have become perennial playoff contenders and this year will be no different. While the Panthers may rely more on an exciting passing attack, their normally sound running game will be keyed by a potentially dominating offensive line. The schedule as always, is brutal with battles with neighborhood rivals Halls and Central along with three time defending State Champion Maryville on the docket. Powell will need to find some quality depth but Panther fans can expect another winning season.

TNPrepSports.com Prediction: 7-3

Playoff Contender: Certainly

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