Prep football: Linemen pave way for Panthers' potent ground attack
Erie-Prophetstown fullback Nick Williams has video-game numbers.
Quarterback Ethan Howard and halfbacks Chris Bauer and Jordan Chandler have also carried for big yardage. Three big reasons for the Panthers’ 3,500-plus rushing yards are senior linemen Kenneth Cole, Kyle Coleman and Owen McConnell.
“We love blocking for them. Most people say that linemen don’t get any credit, but we feel that we do, because it’s cool for us to see them scoring like they do,” said McConnell (6-foot-3, 265 pounds), the right guard and a 3-year starter.
Williams has 216 carries for 1,796 yards, eight 100-yard games, five 200-yard games, and a 344-yard performance against Bureau Valley.
“Nick gets a lot of the credit, and he’s a great runner, but those kids – especially those seniors up front – have just taken that leadership role and been there all year,” Panthers head coach Chuck Milem said.
Howard has 100 carries for 765 yards, Chandler 53 carries for 558 yards, and Bauer 52 carries for 443 yards. Howard has three 100-yard games and Chandler two.
“It gives us a lot of pride,” said Coleman (5-8, 205), the center. “It means we’re doing our job, and we’re executing.”
Ninety-two percent of the Panthers’ offensive plays – 426 of 463 – are runs. Their option attack averages 473 yards per game and 8.4 yards per carry.
While Cole (6-3, 230), the left guard, does not have a favorite play, he lights up when he gets to light someone up.
“When I get a trap, I love pulling to hit people,” Cole said. “They never see it coming.”
The last few years, Zach Inskeep carried the load as the Panthers fullback. Replacing him was a bit concering.
“I was a little worried how Nick would play with this role,” Coleman said. “But I always knew he was a good running back. I did not expect 1,700 yards. I expected over 1,000, but not this much.”
The linemen get some added pressure at practice when volunteer coach Luke Coers or coach Milem play scout team quarterback. Nobody wants to mess up when a coach is right behind them.
Or worse yet, injure the coach. Cole had a humorous incident occur with coach Milem at QB during Tuesday’s practice.
“I stepped on his foot. He probably didn’t like that,” said Cole. Milem hopped around gingerly after the episode but should be a go for Friday’s game.
McConnell has enjoyed seeing the Panthers go from one win in 2011 to five and the program’s first playoff berth in a decade in 2012, and now a program-high seven wins.
“I love the legacy that we’re making,” he said. “I think we’re buidling something and showing how hard work can pay off. Hopefully the younger guys take after us and carry on the tradition that we started.”
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Wayne Hein Field, Erie Middle School
Radio: 1240 AM
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