Last year, the Tug Valley Panthers won their first four games and appeared to be in a prime spot to make the Class A playoffs. However, youth caught up to the young Panthers as they faltered down the stretch to a 6-4 record while falling just short of a playoff appearance.
“We have a lot of kids coming back,” said Tug Valley head coach Hady Ford. “There are 8 to 10 kids who could have a big game on any day. We need a bit of a tougher mindset this year, and we are finally a little older, so hopefully that comes together.
KEY LOSSES: Tanner Urconis, Jonathan Wagoner
KEY RETURNERS: Buddy Marcum, Bryson Elia, Luke Bartram, Ashton Davis, Adam Slone, Dakoda Walker, Dakota Ooten
The quarterback position is currently up in the air for the Panthers. Jaxon Nenni-Mills will compete for the starting spot. In limited action at quarterback last season, Nenni-Mills passed for 395 yards and 4 touchdowns. Freshman Preston May also has the tools to see playing time at the spot. Both young men will push each other for the starting job during the season.
Adam Slone and Bryson Elia are back to lead the rushing attack. Slone, an honorable mention all-state selection rushed for 875 yards and 11 touchdowns. Elia, who was named a second team all-state defensive back, rushed for 737 yards and 7 touchdowns. Austin Smith and freshman Cane Thompson are also expected to provide help in the run game.
At the H-Back position, first team all-state utility player Buddy Marcum will see a lot of time for the Panthers. Thompson and honorable mention all-state selection Ashton Davis will also help out in that role.
Riley Damron, Davis, Dakota Ooten, Michael Curtis and Brady Brewer return to help lead the receiving unit. Brewer led the Panthers with 385 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns last season.
On the offensive line, honorable mention all-state selection Luke Bartram will see some time along with Dakoda Walker, Gage Preece, Noah Canterbury and freshman Marshall Jarvis.
On the defensive line, look for Marcum, Bartram and Walker to handle a lot of the work on the interior. Damron and Davis will spend a lot of time at defensive end.
Starting linebackers Adam Slone, Smith and Brewer return, but the spots are wide open as Thompson, Nenni-Mills and Curtis will all fight for a spot at the position.
Elia will lead the defensive backfield at safety. May will also play at the safety position. Ooten and Paul Preece will be pushed at the conerback position by Cameron Slone and Gavin Fitzpatrick.
The Panthers will play another difficult schedule that should test them throughout the season. Ford says that his team will need to be ready game after game.
“We can’t take a game off and will need to be ready to play every week,” said Ford. “We could win them all and could lose them. A lot of our opponents should be better this season, and we will need to be better as well.”
8/24 – Mingo Central
9/01 – Sherman
9/08 – Symmes Valley, OH
9/15 – @ East Ridge
9/29 – Tolsia
10/06 – @ River View
10/13 – @ Mount View
10/20 – @ Westside
10/27 – @ Man
11/03 – Van
The Panthers should be older and better this season. However, their schedule has a lot of challenges that they will need to overcome to make a playoff appearance. Look for Tug Valley to make a strong push for the playoffs under Ford.