Football coach Matt Cook believes Paschal could make the playoffs in 2012.
“[There’s a] very good chance for us to contend for a playoff spot; that’s a big expectation” the Panthers head coach said.
A new quarterback will lead the Panthers this season. Senior Alfredo Retana will replace Chris Hanson, who graduated last spring. Retana will change positions from a running back to quarterback.
He will try to replace Hanson’s 1,417 yards passing and 113 yards rushing from a year ago. However, the Panthers will have plenty of returning players around Retana to help him in first season as Panthers quarterback.
Senior Ben Noel returns at wide receiver and safety for the Panthers. He caught 33 passes for 368 yards in 2011.
“[Noel] is going to be the guy who doesn’t step off the field,” Cook said.
Junior Justin Woodard will lead the running game, after he rushed for 91 yards in a game last year against Azle. Woodard will replace Jamison Spearman as the primary running back for the Panthers.
However, the running game will have to improve to help Retana, Cook said.
Along the offensive and defensive lines, the Panthers lost Connor Fanning, a mainstay from last year’s team. However, Cook is excited about junior Austin Baxter along the offensive and defensive lines.
“He’s got the body, he’s fast, he’s strong. He just needs to show what he is capable of,” Cook said.
Baxter has the potential to play football in college if he can improve his technique and his tenacity, Cook said.
The rest of defense has talent coming back for the Panthers. Senior Armando Gomez returns at linebacker and Noel returns at safety.
“[Gomez] is about as bright as you can be,” Cook said.
The team as a whole needs more experience, Cook said. That is why the Panthers scheduled three scrimmages in the preseason, which eliminated a bye week in the regular season.
The Panthers have to improve their technique and play with maximum effort on every snap, he said.
The Panthers open up the season against Arlington Heights at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Farrington Field.