By CHRIS HOBBS
Conference: Northwestern Foothills 2A.
Head coach: Tom Eanes (139-182-1, 28 years; 13-22 at Patton, 3 years).
Last season’s records: 8-5 overall; 4-3 Northwestern 3A-4A, tied for third place.
Last season’s results: at Waynesville Tuscola, L 34-68; E. Burke, W 20-18; at Draughn, W 24-7; at Wilkes Central, W 72-52; at HICKORY, W 55-34; S. CALDWELL, W 42-14; at ST. STEPHENS, L 29-31; FRED T. FOARD, W 42-6; at WATAUGA, L 7-49; HIBRITEN, L 0-40; at FREEDOM, W 35-28; Forestview, W 35-17; Canton Pisgah, L 13-22.
SCHOOL FOOTBALL HISTORY
Last season in state playoffs: 2016, 3A.
Last state playoff victory: 2016, d. Forestview 35-17, second round.
All-time state playoff bids: 4.
Conference titles since 1980, last: None.
BY THE NUMBERS
Returning starters: 9.
Returning lettermen: 24.
Returning starters: 4.
Leading returning rusher: Joe Eakin (232-2,104, 29 TDs).
Leading returning passer: Joe Eakin (18-48-2, 259, no TDs).
Leading returning receiver: Ty Causby (6-73, no TDs).
Other players to watch: Matt Anders (Sr., OL); Drayton Moore (Sr., OL); Traveon Lytle (Jr., RB); Jamir Epps (Jr., RB); Michael Day (Ur., OL).
Returning starters: 5.
Players to watch: Ty Causby (Sr., LB); Maston Streppee (Jr., DB); Cody Davis (Sr., DE); Clayton Green (Sr., LB).
Coming off an eight-win season and blessed with two prolific offensive stars who were as steady last season as the day is long, the Panthers are HobbsDailyReport.com’s No. 1 pick to develop into a team that is still playing on Turkey Day.
No one in the region has a better 1-2 punch returning than Patton does with QB Joe Eakin and RB William Brawley. They are the top two ground-gainers – Eakin is first and Brawley is second – among Northwestern Foothills 2A returnees.
Why are we so high on the Panthers? One, Eanes is a proven coach. Two, in addition to the Big 1-2, they have two other players who gained at least 345 yards a year ago. And if you need a third reason, there are nine returning starters.
Moving down from class 3A to class 2A is going to help Patton. If you are 3A and beating Freedom, as the Panthers did last season (35-28), you’ll be fine playing a 2A league schedule.
All the above said, Patton can’t rest on what it got done a year ago. This is season No. 10 for varsity football at the school and it has four state playoff bids, two winning seasons and one .500 record (6-6 in 2010).
Last year’s third-place tie in the Northwestern 3A-4A is the school’s best league finish (and only one above fourth) so there are goals that can be set: First conference title comes to mind.
Just how hungry are the Panthers? With the talent they have back, that could determine just how good they become.