BY TIM GAYLE
SPECIAL TO THE ELMORE/AUTAUGA NEWS
As Jordan Cantrell prepares for his third season at Elmore County High, a lot of the Panthers’ problems, he believes, can be corrected with four quarters of effort.
Elmore County went 2-8 last season, beating Dadeville and Dallas County, but Cantrell notes “we were in a few more of those games, we just couldn’t finish them out. Now, we’re focused on what’s ahead. The effort was there last year, just some of those games we didn’t finish.”
One thing that will help, obviously, is more depth and the Panthers should have that with more numbers on the field this fall.
“Our numbers were down last year,” Cantrell said. “No particular reason I can put on it, but this year we’ve got some numbers. But numbers is not everything, because we’re looking for workers, we’re looking for guys that want to lay it on the line and have the effort.”
Last year, Elmore County surrendered a school-record 359 points, so a primary focus this season is on improving the defense.
“(We want to improve) in all phases of the game, but we need to stop people,” Cantrell said. “We gave up a good many points and but we’re focused on all phases of the game and developing the kids, young and old.”
For the first time in school history, Elmore County High will move up to compete in 5A. While virtually all of their opponents will have larger enrollments and the traditional 5A powers are even harder to defeat, the Panthers find themselves in a favorable region that offers them an opportunity for a playoff berth. After favorite Central of Clay County, the other five opponents have struggled over the past couple of years and are in a similar rebuilding mode – Tallassee, Sylacauga, Beauregard, Talladega and Holtville.
“We just look to try and go out and compete,” Cantrell said. “The players have had a lot of questions from the adults, ‘what about 5A?’ It’s tough playing football wherever you’re at. Every opponent you play is going to be tough. No doubt our region is pretty stout, but we’re just looking to go out and compete.”
Last year was particularly frustrating to the upperclassmen who posted a winning record in Cantrell’s first season (2018) and are eagerly approaching 2020 with a renewed intensity.
“We just came together and said we have to focus on playing all four quarters, every single play,” senior center Coby Mann said. “Just competing and giving full effort on every single play.”