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Unsung heroes helped Panthers to title

When a team wins a state title, it’s only natural that those who were seen holding the ball and scoring touchdowns will be the ones that garner the most attention.

Quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and a select few defensive stalwarts will, not undeservedly, get the majority of the press. But it’s important to recognize those who helped give the quarterback time, the running back a hole and the cornerbacks a hurried pass to intercept.

The 2013 Powell Panthers had a roster filled with players dedicated to doing their specific job, no matter what it was, to help the team win.

Head coach Jim Stringer stresses that each player, whether it be a college-bound star or third-string practice squad member, can push a team forward.

“They need to know that every man on the roster is important and has a role,” he said.

Stringer bases his thinking on personal experience. The four-time 3A-champion coach played for the University of Wyoming Cowboys in the late 1980s.

“I was never a D-1 hero or a blue-chip prospect,” he said. “I was never anything more than a scout team player.”

And though his role may have been relatively small, Stringer said he knew he was a valuable part of back-to-back Western Athletic Conference champion teams.

“I truly believed, and was led to believe that as a scout team player, how good you are is how good your varsity is going to be,” Stringer said.

Scout team players give the first-string players “a good opportunity to prepare. That’s extremely important,” Stringer said.

Powell Panthers like center Nathan McDonald and tackle Garrett Michael are virtually never in a position to make the flashy play, but without them who would block for the league’s top rushing duo?

Stringer said when an offense is able to put points on the board in bunches, or a defense is able to prevent the opponent from doing the same, “you have to look in the trenches and look at the play of your down linemen.”

Where would the Panthers have been this season without Dillon Ohman and Riley Stringer? Line play is so far removed from glamorous that legendary broadcaster Keith Jackson referred to the men who enter the trenches as “the big uglies.”

It may not be pretty, but the job of pressuring or protecting the quarterback has to be done, and done well, for a team to go the distance. Even players who do make a splash contribute in ways that are easy to overlook.

Junior Kalei Smith, who is known for his leaping catches and breakaway speed, was a weapon even when Powell was surrendering possession.

“Kalei Smith punting in (the title) game was just phenomenal,” Stringer said.

Smith led Class 3A with a 37.5 yards per punt average, and was second with a 35.5 net average.

Even those whose names don’t get called, or whose work we don’t see, did their diligence to make this year’s Panthers the best they could be.

“They come in and they play roles on certain downs or for rotational purposes,” Stringer said. “They come out there and make good plays.”

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1 comment

  • posted by Denise Schuler

    November 20, 2013 1:26 pm

    Here's to all the JV, including sophomores and freshman, "Keeping the Vibe Alive" this season!

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