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July 16, 2008 2:57 pm

Rejuvenated

Written by Tribune Staff

Panthers enjoy success at BHSU football camp

Rejuvenated. That word alone describes the Powell High School football team following what head coach Jim Stringer labeled a solid showing at the Black Hills State University summer team camp July 6-9.
Overall, 31 Panthers took part in the event, and Stringer said the squad left Spearfish, S.D., with a great deal of optimism about the upcoming 2008 slate after finishing second in both the seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 competitions. PHS earned spots in the championship game of both events, and each of the title matchups were decided in double-overtime.
Stringer believes the confidence gained during the camp will go a long way in helping the Panthers put to rest the memory of last season's 3-6 record during a campaign that saw PHS lose a number of hard-fought, close contests.
“Our entire coaching staff came out of there feeling rejuvenated,” Stringer said. “As for the players, they came away from the camp feeling energized and ready to go.

“The whole time we were there, we got a lot of compliments from other coaches. We got as many compliments as we did when we went there in 2006 (with the group that went on to win the state championship). The coaches were really impressed with how hard our kids played and how well they were flying around the field. What impressed me the most was how much we improved. I've taken teams with more talent to camp, but none showed as much improvement as this team did. If they will continue to work hard in the weight room and when we start two-a-days, I'll be pleased.”
Among the highlights of the camp, Stringer said, were the efforts of the Panthers' offensive and defensive lines. Though undersized compared to the majority of the teams they faced at the camp, the Panthers showed they were more than capable of holding their on against bigger, stronger units.
“One of the biggest surprises was the play of our offensive and defensive lines,” Stringer said. “We went in there with only nine known linemen from last season. Our linemen were undersized compared to most of the guys they went up against, but they were scrappy and used good technique. When were were on offense, we pretty much moved the ball at will most of the time, and that's a credit to the guys up front.”
Among the top performers along the front lines were Zach Wagner, Tyler Showalter, Drewe Metzler, Randy Bullinger, Chris Rodriguez and Rustin Myrick.
Wagner, at 6-2 and in the 220-pound range, excelled in individual competitions as well as in team-oriented drills, Stringer said. Also, Stringer credited Myrick for the way he handled his move last week from running back to the offensive line. Myrick and Bullinger are vying for time at center, a position that takes on even more importance this season because of the need for efficient and effective snaps to a quarterback lined up in the shotgun.
Stringer also said Myrick could see time as a pulling guard.
“We were in need of linemen, and Rustin embraced the move,” Stringer said. “He's a hard worker, he's scrappy and he's smart. Rustin's in the 180- to 190-pound range, and he can really help us and be a major contributor for us on the line.”
Stringer said a good portion of Powell's offensive success also can be attributed to the ability of the Panthers to pick up a new scheme, which is similar to the single-wing offensive attack used by his high school coach.
According to Stringer, the deuce set used last week varies from the single-wing offense in that it is a more balanced formation and doesn't offer an obvious strong or weak side in which defenders can key on. The scheme uses a receiver on each side, and two wings, which line up about a yard and a half off the tackles and two yards deep. The quarterback is constantly in the shotgun position about five yards deep and with the fullback on either side of him and about four and a half yards deep.
“It incorporates a lot of motion and deception, and it's really hard to tell who has the ball until they are at the line of scrimmage,” Stringer said. “There will be times were it won't work for a lot of yardage, but it also has the potential to produce some huge plays. It caused teams a lot of problems, and it left a lot of defenders frozen and second guessing themselves. We're still learning to be more efficient with it, but so far the kids are picking it up very well.”
Among those who made considerable gains on the offensive side was Galen Mills, who shifted from the running back spot he manned last season to quarterback.
“He played very well,” Stringer said. “He made some mistakes, but he learned from them. He'll continue to get better, and he's a good fit for what were doing on the offensive side. He's going to do a great job for us.”
As for the running backs, they also played well throughout the camp. Stringer said Trevor Donarski excelled on sweeps and ran well on counter plays. Matt Kifer and Billy Harshman also had strong efforts each day, as did fullbacks Cody Kalberer and Reed Hackworth.
“We've got three or four more backs that will help us during the season who didn't go to camp,” Stringer said.
“Those guys that did make it did a great job, and we were pleased with they accomplished.”
Stringer added that the Panthers were more effective running outside the tackles during the camp, and that's an area where PHS struggled last season.
Stringer also noted the play of the receiver corps last week. Gavin Mills, who has developed of reputation for being able to catch almost any ball thrown in his direction, is looking to build on the success he's had as a wide out the previous two seasons. Also, Ryan Brandt, a veteran player, and Jordan Brown, a senior and first-year Panther football player, enjoyed success at the camp.
Defensively, the Panthers are under the direction of Mike Heny, who replaced departed defensive coordinator Josh Hays. Stringer said Heny is using a scheme similar to what Hays used, and believes the Panthers will be prepared for anything an opposing team use to attack PHS's defense.
As expected, Donarski was one of the top performers last week from his linebacker position, Stringer said. Outside linebacker Dalton Harris made considerable strides in his ability to play against the run and the pass, and Hackworth's dedication to preparation and the weight room were evident as he manned either the outside linebacker of strong safety positions during the camp, added Stringer. In the secondary, corners Kifer, Harshman and Brown were steady, and safeties Gavin Mills and Galen Mills turned in solid performances.
Along the defensive front, Myrick helped the Panthers supply plenty of pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Overall, Stringer said the camp experience was a good one and could serve as a springboard into a successful 2008 campaign.
“After we lost the 11-on-11 championship game in double overtime against Delta (Colo.), our guys were pretty disappointed,” Stringer said. “The way it was set up, in overtime each team got one play from the 10-yard line. You could either score or they would mark the ball where you go to. The first overtime was a wash, and in the second overtime we were a victim of a bad snap. (Delta) then ran a quarterback sneak for half a yard and won it. It was a tough way to lose it, but after they had time to think about it, our guys realized how far they had come in a very short time.”