What can this year’s Pikeville Panther team accomplish?
Just talk to returning lineman Cade Slater and you’ll soon find out that this year’s squad is ready to get the season going.
“The sky is the limit,” Slater said. “We’ve got so much talent, we can accomplish anything really. We have so much talent on the offensive side of the ball and we’ve got a ton of people returning on defense. Our receiving corps is insane. You’ve got Cody Raines in the backfield with Isaac (McNamee) who has a cannon to be so young. It’s going to be good.”
Pikeville has had a big offseason in the weight room and is working hard to get this season started.
“I think it shows a lot about our team’s character,” Slater said. “We’re all obviously focused. We just lost the state championship by one point, so it really fuels. I think having the young guys out working hard with all of us really shows that everybody is all in on our team.”
The offensive line doesn’t get a lot of credit, but Pikeville’ sexplosive offense couldn’t put up the numbers it does without the guys up front.
“I give a lot of credit to our line coach, coach Brad Allen because he really has done a great job of getting everybody prepared,” Slater said. “We have three returners with myself, Matt Compton and Jackson Mullins. Then we have a lot of younger guys coming up. Having Isaac McNamee back there, a couple of the younger guys played junior high with him, so they have some chemistry there. I think that it’s coming together pretty good to be this early. I think we’ll be alright.”
Jackson Hensley recently signed with Harvard and is a three star recruit and is one of the top ranked players in the state. Seth Pugh is a talented wide receiver with plenty of interest from some Ivy League schools as well.
But everything starts up front with the line.
Slater is OK with the skill guys getting so much attention because it means the offensive line is doing its job.
“To me it’s awesome to play in this offense,” Slater said. “You know all of the skill guys. But us guys down under, we just get to hit. It’s fun for me because I know without us lineman that they can’t do what they do and they know it too, so I don’t care about all of the glory because at the end of the day it’s about getting that win.”
Last season, Pikeville fell to Beechwood 21-20 in the Class A state championship.
Instead of dwelling on how close they were, the Panthers are hungry to get back to work.
“Being so close last year, definitely puts a bigger chip on our shoulder,” Slater said. “This senior class won a junior high championship in the eighth-grade, obviously it’s not the same scale, but that’s two times we’ve lost big games and it doesn’t feel good. This year we’re hungry, so everybody better be ready.”
Pikeville plays a tough schedule playing Bardstown, Mingo Central, Paintsville, Raceland, Belfry and Lawrence County in their first six games.
“I think it’s huge (playing a tough schedule),” Slater said. “Our sophomore year, we were really young and we had Paintsville, Hazard and Belfry all right there in a row. You talk about some serious competition, it gets you ready. You saw last year what that schedule did for us. We made it to the state championship and lost by one point with an even harder schedule in my opinion. This year is an even harder schedule, but it’s really good.”
Pikeville will kickoff the season at 6:00 p.m. Saturday, August 24 at home against Bardstown.