2017 KHQA Barnstorm Tour-Stop 11: PALMYRA PANTHERS

Noah Mencer's early return from a fractured Fibula is a nice boon for the Palmyra Panthers


THE SKINNY: Graduation hit hard in P-Town with just four full time starters back on Offense and only Peyton Plunkett qualifying as a full time starter on the Defense. This from a squad that went 7-4 last season.

IN THE COMPANY OF MENCER: The most pleasant surprise of our Barnstorm Tour was finding First Team All Clarence Cannon Conference Kicker and Punter Noah Mencer medically cleared to play for the 2017 season after suffering a fractured Fibula in a freak off-season fall. Early indications were that Noah could miss the entire season, though a later prognosis convinced Kevin Miles that he might be back and sooner than expected. No one expected Noah to be on tap for the start of camp. He booted a 45 yard Field Goal while I was at the scrimmage and even ran some Scout Team Quarterback. Big asset and a great story and boon for the Tigers.

PEYTON'S PLACE: As good a two-way football player as you will find in the Tri-States, I am told reliably that Mister Plunkett already holds at least on Division Two Scholarship Offer. He might project higher than that when all is said and done. I'd suspect that at the next level he is the ideal Strong Safety because he is fast and rangy enough to play back there. A modern version of former Macomb/WIU Standout Ryle Irish. On offense, he runs with tremendous determination and does as good a job as anyone you will see this year lowering the shoulder to take on a defender.

KROEG'S LIST: Jacob Kroeger makes the move from Wide Receiver to Quarterback this season and in watching him Saturday, it became readily clear that Kevin Miles has neatly calibrated the offense to the new QB's play-making ability. There's a lot of read and react to it; getting Jacob mobile and letting him work around in the backfield until the defense breaks down. He's cat quick, especially when he hits the accelerator and he seems to have a great sense of when to go and when to wait on his receiver patterns to further develop. In short, the longer the play extends, the more dangerous he becomes which is a little inverse of Quarterback's in conventional football scenarios. He does scare me more than a little with his tendency to carry the football, Randall Cunningham-style, like a loaf of bread and he's either going to need to develop stronger hands and wrists to hold the football thusly or tuck it. That said, I am enamored of everything else in his young QB repertoire. He's just a Junior. He stands 6'2". His burst is incredible. And he thinks the game at a very creative level. He's a great deal of fun to watch and I can't imagine how good he's going to be as a Seasoned Senior.

ON GUARD: As a former undersized guard myself, I have a certain affinity for those run and hit kids on the offensive line who get by on nastiness, savvy, and aggression. As such, I am a big fan of Brady Barnett and Jackson Powell; your Right and Left Guard respectively. Their Linebacker mentality washes over to the other side of the ball and both are kids constantly hunting hits from whistle to whistle; a trait nearest and dearest to my heart. Both are quick enough to get out in front of all this skill position goodness; but both are kind of different in application. Powell is a technician who just happens to play pugnacious and ornery and old school. Barnett, a converted running back, plays with incredible natural flow. It's more evident in his Linebacker work, which was sublime on Saturday, as he cuts the field like a torpedo cuts through water. It's obviously a touchy personal football pet peeve, but Guards aren't in my opinion valued the way Tackles and Centers are. Palmyra has two good ones and I hope people take note of how important they are here.

YOUTH MOVEMENT: The more obvious story line here is that Palmyra will play a ton of Juniors this season. That's just the tip of the ice burg however. Kevin Miles is quick to point out that there is a tremendous amount of Freshman and Sophomore talent about to make its way through the system and that the next few years offer a great opportunity for the Panthers to make some hay. We saw some of that today with kid in Scout Team work acquitting themselves decently against Second Team Varsity Starters. You've been warned.

MACON HEADWAY: Palmyra opens with Macon, a team that beat them twice last season and actually ended their season. It's a fact not lost on this team and one that should provide nice motivation for a fantastic opening game between two teams that a both a little undervalued after their graduation losses. Lots of speed on that field August 26th

EXTRAS: Collectively, Palmyra set the interview bar high today with great stuff from a host of underclassmen. For a guy doing his first ever interview, Braxden Neil killed it. I know the Panthers are loaded in the skills spots but his 6'3" Frame and smoothness could make him a nice sleeper kid here. Tucker Aeschliman had a couple of nice carries as well, as did Braxton Long. There's lots of depth there. Don't sleep on Michael Frankenbach at Defensive Tackle either, cousin of former KHQA POY Matthew Frankenbach.

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