Panther gridders conduct first preseason practices


Quarterback Ethan Kise, left, hands the ball off to Brogan Green during Fairbanks High School’s first football practice of the 2020 preseason Saturday morning. (Journal-Tribune photo by Tim Miller)

High school fall sports teams throughout Ohio began preseason practices on Saturday.
Whether or not those squads will be able to conduct their seasons may be in question.
The Fairbanks High School gridiron squad began two-a-day workouts amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Practices began after the Panthers took some time off after a two-week camp session.
“Camp went really well,” said FHS head coach Patrick Cotter. “We had 10 good days and the guys learned a lot and got after it.”
Preseason practices are the only activities the Panthers will be able to conduct to prepare for any type of 2020 regular season.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association has canceled preseason scrimmages between different schools as a result of COVID-19.
“I’ve not a fan of having the scrimmages canceled,” said Cotter. “By not playing scrimmages, it hurts a team’s development.
“A lot of reps and learning experiences have been taken away,” he said. “That puts a curb to your learning.”
Cotter said the coaching staff will work around the scrimmage cancelations as best as possible.
“We’ll put the guys through a lot of game-type situations during our practices,” he said. “That will give them a sense of competition and that will breed more competition.
“We’ll give the guys the opportunity to get in as many reps as possible.”
The Panthers went into the preseason, while looking at several younger players to replace graduated seniors.
“We lost a number of three-to-four year starters,” said Cotter. “Braxton Wilhelm was our quarterback and Sam Rengert (who signed to play at Iowa State University) and Dakota Key played on the line. Ethan Chippas (linebacker) and Gatlin Luke (defensive secondary) were key members of our senior class last year.”
Cotter, however, has been pleased with the competition he’s seen so far this summer from players who are hoping to fill those voids.
“Ethan Kise (quarterback-defensive back) and linemen Dewey Ballard. Russ Brandle and Connor McCardell are all looking strong,” said the coach.
“I’ve also liked what I’ve seen in leadership from our veteran players,” said Cotter. “They are doing a good job of helping our freshmen (which number 14).
“The younger guys have been learning the ropes of what it’s like on Friday Night football.”
Whether there will be Friday Night football this fall remains a huge question mark.
“We don’t have any clue what’s going to happen,” said Cotter. “We just have to stay on the straight and narrow and proceed toward the season as though nothing has changed.”

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