2-8 to Winning and Better Fate

Shane McCrink, Sports Editor

At this time last year, the Palmetto Panther football team sat at 0-4, facing a pep rally that would define their season. To their surprise, the gym went on to boo the team, a group that would finish the 2014 season with a 2-8 record.
“When the whole school booed us at the pep rally before our game against Coral Reef last year it really impacted us,” senior wide receiver Alec Rodriguez said. “It made us want to change as a team.”

The team went on to beat Coral Reef the same night for their first win of the season, but it would be one of the few bright spots during their 2-8 season under first year head coach, Mike Manasco’s leadership.

The team has gone through a long journey to try and put the Panther football team on the map. In May, the team put the 2014 season behind them and began dedicating themselves to learning winning habits. The team held two hour practices, Monday through Friday, for summer’s entirety.

“A lot has changed,” wide receiver and senior Erick Villedrouin said. “Over the summer coach Manasco and the assistant coaches taught us not to be satisfied with our expectations. They said we would never be great unless we played as a team. We are finally starting to realize that and picture ourselves doing well.”

One year and three games into the 2015 season, Panther football is already different. The Panthers have passed their 2014 win total and are off to a perfect 3-0 start.

“We put in work for the 2015 season since the first week of summer,” offensive lineman and junior Nick Jensen said. “We care about winning more. This year we are a lot more hungry and everyone is playing with a lot more confidence.”

They have outscored Sunset, Coral Reef and Braddock 99-24. Starting quarterback and junior, Hugh Lowson ranks top 10 in the county for passing with four touchdowns and one interception on 353 yards through the air. Senior and linebacker Romoan Chester leads the county with 38 recorded total tackles.The Panther’s offense ranks second in scoring, averaging 33 points per game.

“I’m happy with the progress that the kids have shown from year one to year two,” head football coach Mike Manasco said. “I think our focus and willingness to prepare is better.”

A goal of the team has been to focus on the present week’s opponent and to not look ahead. It is a method used by some of the most successful football teams because of its principle of always trying to keep the team focused so that they can have maximum on-field performance each week.

“As for on the field, I think we’ve done a good job so far of not looking ahead and trying to be 1-0 each week rather than worry about our opponents or schedule. I think as a football program everything is moving forward in the right direction.”

Today, the Panthers face their first big challenge of the season: the district rival South Dade Buccaneers (2-0) who beat the Panthers 41-20 in last year’s match up.

“I would love to see more students in the stands,” coach Manasco said. “That is definitely an area that can be improved as we start to restore the pride back into Palmetto football.”