Summer Preview: Powell Panthers

It's hard to pounce like a Panther when your surrounded by so many Region 3, 4A sharp shooting poachers. Can big John Bruhin Jr. and company beat powerhouses Maryville, Central and West, win out and play for the big game?

Powell High School

Head Coach: Matt Lowe
Mascot: Panthers
Located: Knoxville, TN
Class/ Region: 4A, Region 3
2005 Record: 7-5, 5-2 Region

Base offense: Multiple
Base defense: 3-5

2005 Schedule:

Aug. 26 Knoxville Webb L 12-13
Sep. 2 Lenoir City R W 45-7
Sep. 9 at McCallie W 27-24
Sep. 16 at Maryville R L 19-47
Sep. 23 at Farragut L 14-16
Sep. 30 South Doyle R W 35-10
Oct. 7 at Knoxville Halls R W 14-10
Oct. 14 at Knox Central R L 7-16
Oct. 21 West R W 28-26
Oct. 28 Clinton R W 21-0
Nov. 4 at Hixson W 45-14
Nov. 11 at Maryville L 0-27

2006 Schedule:

Aug. 25 at Knoxville Webb
Sep. 1 at Lenoir City R
Sep. 8 McCallie
Sep. 15 Maryville R
Sep. 22 Farragut
Sep. 29 at South Doyle R
Oct. 6 Knoxville Halls R
Oct. 13 Knox Central
Oct. 20 at West R
Oct. 20 at Clinton R

How's the Schedule Look:

As is always the case in rugged region 3-4A, Powell's strength of schedule will be as tough as any 4A schools state wide. The positive is that both teams that have finished ahead of Powell in the region over the last 4 years – Maryville and Knoxville Central – will have to come to Scarbro Stadium in 2006. The Panthers will also host border arch rival Halls, while traveling to Lenoir City, South-Doyle, Knoxville West, and Clinton for its regional contests. Add to a tough region schedule non-region games with division 2 power McCallie and 5A Farragut – both at home – and the Panthers will once again play one of the most difficult schedules in Tennessee high school football.

Offensive Preview

Former All State quarterback Matt Lowe, a 1995 Powell Graduate, takes over for Larry Stephens as the Panther head coach this fall looking to improve on a 7-5 finish and second round playoff exit from a year ago. The first order of business this past spring was to find a replacement at the quarterback spot vacated by Cody Watts' departure to Eastern Kentucky University. Watts had broken Lowe's single season school records for passing yardage and total offense during his career at Powell.

Emerging as the number one signal caller from spring practice was junior Matt Abba, 6'1" and 185 pounds. Playing behind Watts, Abba didn't get a lot of varsity snaps, but he did lead his team to a win in his only varsity start as a sophomore, subbing for an injured Watts against Clinton. Abba followed that up with a solid spring and looked to be the projected starter when the Panthers open the season on August 25th at Webb.

That projection has been muddled just a bit, however, as the family of former Knoxville Central athlete Kenny Cruze moved in to the Powell zone in May. Cruze, a 6'2" 180 pound senior, is a tremendous athlete. He played wide receiver and defensive back for the Bobcats, and was thought to be the heir apparent under center for Central with the departure of Zach Helton. Cruze made 35 catches for 651 yards and 5 touchdowns as a junior.

Cruze's addition to the Panther squad will give Lowe and offensive coordinator Daryle Smith a lot of flexibility. Cruze will likely see time at both quarterback and wide receiver, and he gives the Powell offense much needed speed on the field, no matter where he lines up.

Whoever the Panther quarterback winds up being, he will have some big and talented players in front of him and behind him.

The offensive line will be the key to the Panther offensive success, and why not? Two of the units projected starters already had Division 1-A scholarship offers in hand headed in to summer workouts.

John Bruhin, Jr., son of former Powell, University of Tennessee, and NFL offensive lineman John Bruhin, Sr., will help anchor the big line. Bruhin, 6'4" and 295 pounds has been a starter for Powell since the first game of his freshman year. His older brother, Zane, is an offensive lineman at Marshall, and the Thundering Herd is one of the schools that have already offered John, Jr. a scholarship.

The other bookend in the offensive line is Jared McGaha. McGaha is 6'7" and 275 pounds and already has offers in hand from Illinois, MTSU, and Marshall. Both Bruhin and McGaha are also on the radar of several SEC schools. Notre Dame is interested in McGaha.

Behind the quarterback will be two very good senior fullbacks in Jordan Lakin and Randy Loope. Lakin, at 6'1" and 225 is also considered a D1-A or D1-AA prospect. He, like Bruhin, has been a varsity starter since day one of his high school career. Loope, at 5'10" and 175, isn't as big as Lakin, but he isn't afraid to lead the ball carrier in to the hole or get the tough yards himself when called upon.

Starting at tailback will be another senior, Josh Huffaker. While not big in stature at 5'7" and 170, Huffaker has a lot of experience carrying the football. He has been starter during his sophomore and junior years, combining for some 1,600 yards over those two seasons. Junior Tex Clemons, another scat back type, as is Huffaker, should see significant carries at the tailback spot, as well.

Defensive Preview

The Panther defense will be anchored by Bruhin, McGaha, Lakin, and Loope.

Bruhin will return to his nose tackle spot in the 3 man front employed by defensive coordinator Phil Wilks. McGaha looks to see duty at both the nose tackle and end spots. Lakin and Loope will work at inside linebacker, while junior Jordan Allen, 5'11" and 180, looks to be at one of the outside linebacker positions. Allen had an outstanding spring and Lowe and his staff believe that he will be a force on defense, and he could also contribute significantly at one of the running back or receiver spots on offense.

A key in the Powell secondary will be how well junior Johnathan Price recovers from knee surgery that forced him to miss most of his sophomore year. Price started at safety for during his freshman season, but went down with the injury early last year and missed the remainder of the 2005 campaign. Price moved to cornerback in the spring.

Another pleasant surprise from spring practice was the play of Ben Butler. The 5'10" and 160 pound senior took charge of the free safety spot and appears to be the odds on favorite to win that job once fall practice begins.

TN Preps Prediction: 10-2

This report filed by: Bill Mynatt, Radio Voice of the Powell Panthers on AM 620 WRJZ and columnist for the Halls Shopper-News.

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