If an increase in roster size is any indication, there may be some good days ahead for the Fairbanks High School football squad.
The Panthers number 48 during the second week of preseason two-a-day practices and third-year head coach Patrick Cotter said, “that’s a good number.”
The number of uniforms that will take the field on Friday nights this fall is a big jump from Cotter’s first two seasons at the helm.
The team fielded a roster of 37 during the 2015 campaign and jumped slightly to 39 a year ago.
“We had a big senior class (12) during my first season and we lost six from last year,” said Cotter.
Just what is the reason for the resurgence of interest in Fairbanks football?
“We’ve got several guys who are returning to the program for their junior or senior seasons after having been out,” said Cotter. “We’ve also got a solid freshman class that numbers 12 or 13 strong.
“We have a community filled with kids and parents who know that our coaching staff is doing things the right way,” he said. “Kids are excited to play Panther football.”
Fairbanks opened its preseason scrimmage schedule on Wednesday at Amanda Clearcreek.
Cotter was impressed with the way that new No. 1 quarterback Jacob Nicol ran the offense. Nicol is replacing Kyle Warner, who passed for 4,000 yards during his senior season in 2016.
“Jacob did a very nice job for his first time against life competition from another team,” said Cotter. “He got the guys in the right positions on each play and he made great decisions with the football.
“Our offensive line did a good job of protecting Jacob,” said Cotter. “I don’t think he was ever touched.
“Beau (running back Sloan) also did a nice job,” he said. “He’s just an athlete.”
Cotter said there are spots on the defensive unit that still need to be tweaked.
The Panthers have switched from a 3-3 defensive front to a 4-3 alignment.
“It’s more like what we played my first year here,” said Cotter.
The 3-3 was a defense in which the Panthers, in their coach’s words, “pinned our ears back and went after people.
“With the 4-3, you have to read and react to the offense and fill the gaps.”
Cotter said linebacker Charlie Scheiderer and cornerback Brian Higinbotham played well against Amanda Clearcreek.
The defensive line is a particular area that is still a work in progress.
“Right now, our defensive line is by committee, as we are rotating a lot of guys in and out of the lineup,” said Cotter. “They are young and are still learning.”
Among the D-line candidates are Dakota Key, Sam Rengert, Billy Bodey, Dylan Stage, Cole Murdock and Tyler Beam.
The Panthers will return to scrimmage action at home on Saturday, 10 a.m., against Bexley.
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