2014 KHQA BARNSTORM TOUR: CENTRAL PANTHERS
Brad Dixon: "No, our guys are still hungry. They are not content with anything we have done up to this point. So they've come out here today with a great focus. And they've had one all off-season. And we are just trying to take it one day at a time and get better. And hopefully the chips will fall where they do and we will get an opportunity."
Bobby Keltz: "We put in a great summer out in the weight room. We will just have to condition as well as we can, go as hard as we can in practice, every rep. Don't take a play off."
Alger Saldana: "Obviously, we lost people last year. But the off-season we put in, I am not even worried in the slightest about how we are going to come back and perform this year with the people we have."
Of particular importance to Central's next level goals are the guys staffing their Offensive Backfield: a pair of returning 900 yard rushers in bruiser Bobby Keltz and breakaway threat Alger Saldana, who averaged 11 yards per carry last season. But also a pair of newly minted weapons at Wingback.
Brad Dixon: "This will be the first year we've returned more than one back in about the last four years. So we are excited to have guys back with experience in Alger and Bob. And then a guy by the name of Eric Lee that some don't know about has done a great job preseason. And then obviously Andrew Shake is going to get that move to Running Back and we expect big things from him.
The Panthers also return a pair of All Conference level performers at Tight End in Zach Foote and Jason Dormire to help accelerate the progress of a brand new "trigger man" at Quaterback
Brad Dixon: "Right. We've got probably the strongest kid, pound for pound on our team at Quarterback. Ryan Freiburg. He's been a Junior just hasn't had an opportunity yet but yeah, we are excited about him as well."
What the Panthers do not have, however, is a single returning starter back from what may have been the Tri-States Benchmark Offensive Line last Fall; a group that fronted for 45 points and 368 rushing yards per game.
Alger Saldana: "These guys are probably, around the boards, the strongest group we've ever had. So I am not worried in the slightest about how we are going to be doing blocking because these guys are big guys too and they are strong."
Brad Dixon: "Obviously, when you don't bring any of those guys back up front that can be concerning but we have guys that work their butts off in the summertime, in the weight room. And so we are excited about the guys we have there. We've moved a few guys around but we feel that is going to end up being a strength by the end of the season."
Throughout the entirety of Brad Dixon's Central tenure, Defense has been the calling card. And the Panthers return five starters there, including 2013's top tackler Andrew Shake.
Brad Dixon: "Jason Dormire is a returning All Conference Defensive Lineman. We feel real good about him up front. And we return three Linebackers in Zach Foote, Andrew Shake and Trey Flesner. So we got to fill a couple guys in there. And then a couple of guys in the Secondary. But again, our guys, they are out here in the Summer. They work hard so we know guys are going to come in and step right in."
Which serves to position the Panthers as a team with legitimate designs on playing Thanksgiving Weekend...provided they can push through one last barrier.
Algar Saldana: "Not being intimidated by what we have ahead of us. Last year, we might have gotten a little bit ahead of ourselves. Second half of Maroa, for example, if we had performed that way the whole game, we would have been where we needed to be. Just finishing what we need to do."