2013 KHQA BARNSTORM TOUR; CAMP POINT CENTRAL PANTHERS
They were the last area team standing in Tri State Football in 2012.
And the first Western Illinois high school squad out of the gate this morning at 6am to greet the season.
A correlation probably not lost on anyone who knows a little something about the price of success.
Brad Dixon: "We practiced 102 days last year and our goals was to get to that 108 day mark. That's what it takes to get to that Thanksgiving Friday."
"Muddy" Waters: "I think we are a more athletic class across the board. We are definitely stronger across the board and I think our speed will compliment our strength really well."
Brad Dixon: "Our guys have not rested on what we did last year. They came out all Off-Season. We put in a better Off-Season than we did a year ago and I think they are ready to leave their mark here just like last year's group and the year before."
It may sound far-fetched, given what they did and who they lost, but the prevailing wisdom around Panther Football is that this has the makings of a better squad than last year's history maker.
Cole Phillips: "We want to stay under the radar. We don't want to be too showy. We don't want people to know who we are. We will come out of nowhere and hopefully we go farther than we did last year."
Outside of Fullback Bobby Keltz, who rushed for over 700 yards as Panthers Third Option, there truly aren't many known "name players" here. But this may be the fastest backfield Brad Dixon has fielded.
Brad Dixon: "You know Bobby getting an opportunity to run last year was huge for us. And he came out here and worked extremely hard all summer and gives us 100% all the time. It is definitely going to start with him. And the Wingbacks that we have this year; again, guys that maybe aren't big names but guys that are very athletic. Guys like Alger (Saldana) and Austin Kramberg, who are very quick and agile. And we expect again big things from them."
Eann Diller: "It's really good to know you have those quick guys behind you; that if you block for just a few seconds, when you look up, they are 30 yards down the field. They are off to the End Zone and that's a really good feeling."
Duerr: That includes a Quarterback this year. You haven't had the chance of blocking for somebody like that before...
Eann Diller: "Cole (Phillips) is really quick. He is really smart too. He is going to be a big addition to our team."
Gifted as the skill kids may be, it is the quality of Central's Offensive Line that is the biggest source of optimism here.
Cole Phillips: "I feel safe back there. I have no worries at all."
Muddy Waters: "We've spent all summer getting stronger. We've said it time and time again. We are way stronger across the board and we are going to be a really good Offensive Line this year."
Defensively, the outlook is just as rosy. The Panthers return seven starters from a group that allowed just 12 points per game last season. With Jared Starman (106 Tackles, 10 Tackles for loss in 2012) Andrew Shake (89 Tackles, 27 Solo Stops, 2 Sacks) and Mike Johnson (79 tackles, 29 solos stops, 7 Tackles for loss) leading the charge, Linebacker will again be the strength of that group.
Muddy Waters: "It's definitely fun having the experience back that we do. And they we have a bunch of great Junior Athletes. They are really strong; a really strong class and they are going to compliment our class really well."
Duerr: Obviously, this Conference is always loaded. You know what you are facing. Triopia wants a piece of you. Brown County obviously wants a piece of you. What's it like, and this is different this year, wearing the bulls-eye this time around.
Eann Diller: "Personally, I love having the bulls-eye on my back. It motivates me more knowing that everyone is out to get you and you are the Big Dawgs of the Conference."