Coach: Brandon Clark (entering 7th year as head coach at Derby 37-28)
2012 District: Wichita East, Wichita Heights, Wichita Southeast
Returning Starters: Offense 7, Defense 5
Returning Lettermen: 35
Offense: Quality season performances from quarterback Todd Freeman and offensive lineman Clay Gordan led the Derby offense to score 407 points in 2011. Both graduated last year, but the Panthers are making the necessary adjustments to make up for their absences.
“We have a lot of experience,” said Coach Clark. “Our top three quarterbacks will be on the field at all times, two playing wide receiver.”
The third quarterback Clark alludes to is Chandler Shantz, a senior transfer from Buhler. Shantz is projected to take Freeman’s place as the starting quarterback this season and has the experience to do so. In 2011, Shantz had 1,120 passing yards for the Crusaders, averaging more than 100 per game.
“He has the size and the speed to be a very versatile quarterback,” said Coach Clark. “Both throwing the ball and running the ball.”
The Panther offense will also use the speed of senior Kellen Sims and junior Jeremy Dunham. Last season Sims averaged 58 rushing yards per game while Dunham ran 5.6 yards per carry.
“We are starting to understand our schemes on offense and starting to play much faster,” said Coach Clark.
This season the Panthers will run a spread offense with a group of juniors guiding the way. Junior running back Tyler West has been a starter since the first time he wore the green and black jersey his freshman year. Joining him on a hunt for another post season run are his fellow juniors tight end DeAndre Goolsby, offensive lineman Cole Hansen, and offensive lineman Quinten Cox.
Defense: After graduating strong competitors like linebackers Dillon Call and Myles Stroud, and defensive lineman Logann Duff, the Panthers defense will be in the hands of the experienced returners. It will be up to junior safety Travis Young, senior linebacker Ben Becker, senior defensive lineman Connor Littleton, and junior linebacker Jose Delgado to lead the 4-3 defense and keep opposing offenses from scoring beyond last year’s average of 21.8 points per game.
The Derby team has a lot of upperclassmen on this season’s roster, and that gives them a good amount of options. Senior safety Chandler Ayer and junior corner Alec Martin are a couple of the 2012 up-and-coming players to watch for according to Coach Clark.
Odds and Ends: Clark is looking for a more physical team this year, and in order to succeed in their league the Panthers will need to buy in and tighten up their defense. Last season they allowed 1,925 rushing yards and 1,036 passing yards in 12 games.
Derby gave up 30 points to Salina Central, 34 to Hutchinson, and 49 to Heights in the regular season. Three games that the Panthers gave themselves the chance to win, but were unable to close the gaps on the defense.
The Panthers have made the state semi-finals in 6A the past three out of four years, and they are looking to continue the tradition in 2012.