By CHRIS HOBBS
Conference: Northwestern Foothills 2A.
Head coach: Jonathan Browning (0-0, first year; 0-0 at Patton, first year).
Last season’s records: 9-4 overall; 5-1 Northwestern Foothills 2A, second place.
Last season’s results: Hunter Huss, L 20-49; R-S Central, W 64-29; McDowell, W 42-7; Freedom, L 14-31; at E. Rutherford, W 28-21; FOARD, W 42-18; at DRAUGHN, W 14-3; E. BURKE, W 63-0; at W. IREDELL, W 23-15; BUNKER HILL, W 63-20; at HIBRITEN, L 0-35. Playoffs: at N. Surry, W 26-10; at Hibriten, L 0-35.
SCHOOL FOOTBALL HISTORY
Last season in state playoffs: 2017, 2AA.
Last state playoff victory: 2017, d. N. Surry 26-10, first round.
All-time state playoff bids: 5.
Conference titles (or shares) since 1980, last: None.
BY THE NUMBERS
Returning starters: 10.
Returning lettermen: 20.
Set: Triple option.
Returning starters: 5.
Leading returning rusher: Jamir Epps, 5-7, 165, Sr. (72-583, 7 TDs).
Leading returning passer: Mason Streppa, 6-0, 180, Sr. (1-2-1, 26, 1 TD).
Leading returning receiver: Epps (5-92, 1 TD).
Other key returnees: Michael Day, 6-1, 210, OL, Sr.; Matthew Byrd, 6-0, 170, A-back, Sr.; Bryson Ratliff, n/a, n/a, B-back, Jr.; Demetric Greene, n/a; n/a, B-back, Jr.; Donovan King, 5-9, 165, B-back, Jr.; Alex Flores, 5-10, 170, B-back, Jr.; Weston Fleming, 6-0, 160, QB, Jr.; Will Brittain, 6-0, n/a, WR, Sr.
Top newcomers: Pierce Memmel, n/a, n/a, WR, Sr.
Set: 4-4 flex.
Returning starters: 5.
Players to watch: Mason Streppa, 6-0, 180, DB, Sr.; Jamir Epps, 5-7, 165, LB, Sr.; Caleb Taylor, 6-2, 160, DB, Soph.; Weston Fleming, 6-0, 160, DB, Jr.; Carson Carswell, 5-9, 160, DB, Sr.; Jackson Vance, n/a, n/a, DB, Sr.
Not much is expected to change with the Panthers, who promoted assistant coach Jonathan Browning to head coach when Tom Eanes left to coach at Bandys.
Browning’s focus will again be on defense and assistant coach Trey Justice will run the triple option offense.
Patton worked its way through season-ending injuries to two key players, RB William Brawley and QB Joe Eakin, and posted the most wins in school history (9-4) last season.
Brawley had more than 1,000 rushing yards in six games when he was sidelined and Eakin got hurt on opening night.
The Panthers, at least on paper, are not as experienced as they were going into 2017, but they do have 10 returning starters – five on each side of the ball – and some proven players. Chief among them is RB Jamir Epps, the team’s leading returning rusher and receiver.
Matthew Byrd also returns in the backfield and big things are anticipated from RB Bryson Ratfliff, who was called up from the junior varsity last season.
Weston Fleming and/or Mason Streppa will be at QB, a position that carried Patton last year after Eakin went down. They brought on Ty Causby and he was a steady player the rest of the season in that position.
Patton has only one returning offensive line starter (Michael Day).
The secondary will likely be the Panthers’ strength on a defense led by Streppa (131 tackles, six picks).
Patton may be pushed to win as many games this year, but last year raised the bar as far as expectations re nine wins was not a stretch looking at the 2017 roster on opening day but not exactly expected when the big injury bug bit.