Panthers look to improve their finish in 2012.
Coach: Bo Black (74-38 in 11 seasons at Great Bend)
2011 Recap: 4-4 overall, 3-1 in the league, did not make it to the post-season
Bo Black has traditionally played one of the toughest non-league schedules in Western Kansas. Last season he took his team to visit both Wichita Heights and St. Thomas Aquinas. Things should get a little easier in 2012, as his team trades those 5A powerhouses, for 3A Hoisington and 4A Ulysses. But those games aren't exactly push overs. Even though those are smaller schools, they both have strong football traditions and both games are on the road. Getting out to a quick start, something the Panthers have struggled with in recent seasons, could be the key to their first winning record since 2008.
Scoring points has not really been a problem for Bo Black coached teams, at least not in recent years. Great Bend averaged more than 25 points a game in 2011. The Panthers will have some rebuilding to do on the offensive line after losing First Team All-WAC linemen Tyler Uselton and Jacob Graham. Great Bend also loses starting Quarterback Mitch Kottas, plus receivers Jace Bowman and Conner Sell. How quickly the young players that are slated to step in this season develop, is the key to the Panther success on offense this season.
Same story for the D as on offense as the Panthers lose All-WAC first team defensive linemen John Verbeck and Linebacker Jeremy Sigler. But the Panthers do return first team defensive back Chris Burly. For Great Bend to be successful this season, the D will need to improve on the 23 points per game they gave up last season. That defensive scoring average was good for third in the five-team WAC. The team gave up an average of just more than 100 yards per game on the ground, and 51 yards through the air.
Odds and Ends:
In one of those sports oddities, the Panthers were perfect at home and winless on the road in 2011. They will need to get better on the road in 2012 if they want to return to the post season. The good news for Great Bend this season, two of the Panther's district games are at home, against Hays and Salina South. They will go on the road to play Salina Central.