CIK Season Preview: Derby reloads after graduation, eyes 5th title in 6 years
After losing key talent to graduation, Derby looks to reload, not rebuild in 2020
WICHITA, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - The Derby Panthers will have the chance to add another trophy to the case in 2020 after the program captured its 4th state title in 5 trips last November. After losing a talented core to graduation, head coach Brandon Clark says it the Panthers look to reload this fall.
“We’ve got a bunch of guys that are going to be first year starters and seniors, that’s kind of the Derby way—we always have some underclassmen that step up and help these seniors out. They’ve been waiting their turn and they are pretty hungry,” Clark noted.
The Panthers will be in good hands in terms of leadership on both sides of the ball. Lem Wash and Jack Hileman both look to lead Derby on offensive and defense, respectively, following strong junior campaigns.
“Lem—we knew he was going to be special. Grant started last year and Lem waited his turn, we played him at running back a little bit and some receiver but he finally got his chance to shine at quarterback and I think he showed everyone what he can do at quarterback last year,” Clark said of the senior signal-caller. Wash finished last season with 1,211 rushing yards, 851 passing yards, and 41 TDs total.
Clark also spoke highly of Hileman, noting he could have a break-out year on defense, “He understands the system so well. He may not be a guy that gets all of the D-1 looks because of his size but he will be a first team all-state player if he keeps doing what he’s doing.”
Clark says this team isn’t focused solely on winning a championship, instead enjoying this season with their teammates. He says the team has been focused on not taking any time together for granted after the cancellation of spring sports.
When asked if there was any pressure for the team to win it all, Clark responded, “There’s no pressure with these kids, these kids love the game of football. They don’t play for a ring, they play to play for each other and reach their goals. It’s pretty awesome to see them interact with each other.”
The Panthers will face the defending 5A champion Mill Valley Jaguars in what will be an exciting road contest to open the season.
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