Countdown to Kickoff 2012: New Panthers on the prowl

Carolina Forest coach Drew Hummel was bemoaning the fact that the Panthers lost their star quarterback and his top two receivers to college football, and then he dropped a bomb.

“Danny Daly threw for 2,500 yards and 25 touchdowns, most of them to Aaron Williams and Jarvez Holmes, who had about 100 receptions between them,” Hummel said. “But saying all that, I think we’re going to be better on offense, especially with the things our quarterback can do.”

Enter junior Will Brunson, who patiently waited his turn behind Daly to get his chance to shine. The wait lasted exactly one play, the first snap from scrimmage in the CNB Classic, when Daly connected on a long bomb  with Zavier Jones. Maybe Hummel was right after all.

Despite returning only five starters on both sides of the ball, the Panthers appear ready to take the next step in the program’s development with a first-ever appearance in the Class AAAA playoffs. Back-to-back 7-4 campaigns have left Carolina Forest out of the postseason.

So Hummel has signiicantly beefed up the Panthers’ schedule, replacing non-region games against lower division opponents with all AAAA and AAA foes. Those factors would seem to be working against Carolina Forest, but Hummel has faith his program is moving forward.

And for good reason. In addition to the solid replacements for the lost skill players, the Panthers return one of the top running backs in the state in Harold Atkinson and half of his offensive line. Jamar White and Jones also give them a deep threat to keep defenses honest.

On defense, the Panthers posted four shutouts last season and look to fill in the blanks of six lost starters. Linebacker Ryan Yurachek anchors a faster unit that will again give Carolina Forest the chance to stay in some close games and give the offense a chance to win it.

The Panthers open the season Friday at home against Socastee, which the Panthers blew out 34-7 in last year’s opener. The Braves should be a good measuring stick for Carolina Forest to see just how much they have improved since last season.

Photo by Rancier Photography

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