TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY
By Chris Parsons / Staff Writer
KNOX CENTRAL — Scottie Russell’s Knox Central Panthers got off to the best start in the program’s history last season with an eight-game win streak before falling to Russell County in a game that decided the district championship.
The Panthers eventually finished with the best record in school history (10-2) after a 35-6 loss to Lexington Catholic ended hopes of a state title run in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs.
Last year’s over and with practice officially underway, the Panthers are getting ready to embark on the 2013 season. With that in mind Russell said this time of year is one of his favorites because of the potential surprises as well as the fact it’s almost time to play football.
“We’re tickled to death that it’s finally here and I think everybody is ready to go,” Russell said. “I enjoy getting things started because you get to look at the kids and see how they’ve grown up throughout the offseason.
“Kids can really change over the course of a calendar year, so it’s a lot of fun to get them in here and see how things are going for them and talk football,” he added. “We look forward to the season and this is the time to get in and get to work.”
A lot has changed since the last game of the 2012 season and the biggest difference when it comes to Knox Central is the departure of some key seniors, including the graduation of Jeffrey Canady, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards last season before signing to play college football at Eastern Kentucky University. Even though Canady is gone, the cupboard isn’t exactly bare for Russell as far as offense goes with the return of Jonathan Gist in the backfield.
Given the level of success his team experienced last year, Russell said if any pressure is to be put on this year’s Panthers, the majority of it would most likely come internally.
“Our guys put more pressure on themselves than anybody else because they want to win and have that reputation,” Russell said. “They want to come in and do better than the team before them and that’s what you want as a coach each and every year.
“As coaches that makes us happy to see that the kids are hungry and they really want to be remembered as one of the best teams to come through Knox Central,” he added.
If there is any difference in this year’s team compared to last year’s squad or teams in the past, Russell said the fact that the team is made up of a lot of juniors is one of the first things that jump out at him, but the biggest difference will be the need to play as an entire team.
“This year we don’t have a lot of seniors, so we’re really junior-dominated,” Russell said. “The good news is that this group of juniors has played a lot of football, so they’ve been around the program for a while.
“The other thing is that there’s really not a superstar, so the kids will have to play together,” he added. “I feel like this will be one of our more team-oriented teams, so we’re excited about that and we’ll to take on that mindset starting this week.”