Across the field, offensively and defensively, there are new faces at almost every position for the Midlothian football program this season. More than 30 seniors graduated from last year’s team leaving a plethora of holes to fill with unproven talent.
The exception to that rule would be the Panthers’ offensive line.
Yes, two starters from last year’s team are gone but three starters return leaving the front five as the closest thing to an intact unit as the program has this season. That has made for a little easier spring practice session at least in terms of mentality.
“It definitely gives us a lot of confidence but I think especially it helps because we’ve all played together so much so we all know each other, we know how we react and it’s just comforting to know we’ve got all these guys,” Tony Kirk said. “We’re all seniors this year mostly so it’s nice to have that comforting feeling just knowing the guy next to you personally.”
The situation isn’t quite as easy as it sounds. Three players are returning but only two are seeing action right now. Second-team all-district center Myron Hanson is out for a few weeks with a shoulder injury leaving the team a little shorthanded.
While he might be out, Kirk, a second-team all-district tackle, and Jeff Reynolds, an honorable mention all-district guard, are on the field and working to keep the line together.
The unit’s continuity has helped the first weeks of spring practice with so many positions still being sorted out. The running back depth has been slashed due to injury while new receivers are being broken in. Quarterback Bryce Murphy has begun preparations for his first full season under center this spring.
While those are a lot of changes, coach Lee Wiginton isn’t surprised at how the line has reacted.
“It might have helped a little bit. We have a couple of our best leaders on the team are on the offensive line which helps,” Wiginton said.
Despite the returning depth, Wiginton isn’t ready to issue anyone on that offensive front a totally secure pass just yet. He believes Hanson and Kirk are in good position to keep their jobs but says that the field is open to any challenger at a position.
That wide open mentality has made for a battle in the trenches this spring among players vying for one of those coveted starting spots. Last year, the newly hired coach was just trying to sift through the players and find those that might work in his system. Now that the system is in place, Wiginton and his offensive coaches can spend more time fine tuning than overhauling.
“It’s creating competition among the guys and they’re really, really working hard,” Wiginton said. “With us knowing what they can do and coming into it with a little more knowledge it’s making things a lot more competitive this spring. That’s going to be a good thing for us long term for sure.”
Even though no position is totally secure, the veteran Panthers on that front line are still going their job as leaders both in setting the example and teaching when necessary.
The new players trying to battle for those spots on the line are learning from guys who have already been there and done that. With their experience, the players have found it easier to teach and get those around them caught up on what it takes to play at the 5A level. The learning curve has been a big boost in terms of developing chemistry quickly.
“It’s helped out the younger guys coming up because now we’ve got more experience. We can show them what to do not just tell them, ‘Hey, do this.’ We can say follow us, do what we do and you’re going to be just fine,” Reynolds said. “We feel real comfortable with our offensive line this year. We’ve got three returning starters and everyone’s just falling into place.”
Other spring football activities announced
Along with spring practice and the annual spring game, the Panther football program will hold several other events for fans and athletes to take part in.
At 7 p.m. on May 20, there will be a junior high 7-on-7 football tournament at the practice field behind the field house.
On May 26, the team will hold its powderpuff football game at 5:30 p.m. with the freshman spring game slated to start immediately after.
Prior to the varsity spring game, the football program will hold a punt, pass and kick contest at the MISD Stadium starting at 5:30 p.m. with the spring game slated to start immediately after. Registration for the punt, pass and kick will start at the stadium at 4:30 p.m.
All the events on May 26-27 will be free with a food donation to the Manna House. The football program is asking for canned chili, boxed macaroli and cheese, canned fruit, peanut butter and canned Chef Boyardee type products.
Less than a week after both players were practicing together, the Seeton twins could be shelved for the spring. Dustin and Justin Seeton both sustained injuries that will probably force them to step away from the field and heal.
Both players were scheduled for further tests last week. Losing that duo will open the door for younger running backs to step in during their absence.
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