Ellis County football previews: Maypearl looks to continue improving
Panthers welcome back multitude of skill players, but trenches take graduation hit
(Note: This weekend begins a series of season previews for local high school football teams leading up to the season kickoff on Aug. 27.)
MAYPEARL — The Maypearl Panthers ended a playoff drought in 2020, but their bi-district performance was one that is motivating the returnees to do a better showing this fall.
The 83 points surrendered to eventual state quarterfinalist Malakoff in last year’s playoff game appears to be the school record for most points allowed, surpassing a wild 76-46 loss to Grandview in 2014.
But the Panthers have shown improvement every season under fourth-year head coach Sam Riepe and the Panthers hope to keep climbing the ladder in 2021.
“Most of our skill kids have played at the varsity level for 2-3 years now,” Riepe said. However, he added, “We graduated most of the starting offensive line and 2 of the 3 defensive linemen.”
Riepe says the keys to success this fall will be getting both lines to play at a high level, being able to protect the quarterback and block for the running backs, and on defense, to tackle and know assignments.
The Panthers sent six graduates off to the college football ranks, including quarterback Jaxson Emerton, who will play at Castleton University. Sliding into the signal-calling spot will be senior Heath Roesler, a standout on both sides of the ball in 2020. Sophomore Heath Graf will be the backup.
Hard-running senior Homer Arizpe returns at running back, while Roesler will have an experienced corps of wide receivers to target — seniors Aaron Jett and Charlie Houdmann, and junior Cole Rager. Sophomores Dustin Chautin and Aidan Votaw should also get some reps at receiver.
Maypearl’s O-line will have somewhat of a new look, as the only returnees are seniors Dylan Peek and Veston Varnell. Junior Steele Renfro will take one of the open spots, and the other two spots will be filled during two-a-days.
The Panther defense looks strong with eight returning starters, including Arizpe up front. Linebackers Timmy Gracey, Garrett Baggett and Brian Fisher all return, and all five starting defensive backs — Jett, Roesler, Rager, Houdmann and senior Ryan Holiday — are back as well.
Special teams will be a question mark following the graduation of all-state placekicker Rylan Winingham, who signed with Navarro College.
District 7-3A will be even tougher this year, which will make it a challenge for the Panthers to return to the playoffs.
“We have Grandview who is always at bare minimum a 3-4 round deep team,” Riepe said. “West is very strong up front and will be a tough game, Madison will be very athletic and Whitney will want revenge for us beating them last year and putting them out of the playoffs.”
District 7-3A (I)
Head coach: Sam Riepe (4th season at school and overall, 10-20)
2020 record: 7-4, 3-3
Returning lettermen: 12
Returning starters: 5 offense, 8 defense