DERBY, Kan. Fresh off of it's third title in four years, the Derby Panthers are looking to pick up where they left off behind a senior class made up of offensive starters.
Nov, 16, 2018; Derby, Kansas, USA; The Derby Panthers played the Manhattan Inidians for the right to play in the 6A state title game ©Kelly Ross
The dominant powerhouse that has been built in Derby starts at the head. Brandon Clark has transformed the Panthers into a yearly 6A title contender in his time at the helm. His record sits at 117-36 in 14 years at Derby including two perfect seasons in 2016 and 2018. The recent success is something Clark says is created early on.
"It's fun, most of these kids grow up wanting to be here, they want to play on Friday nights and a lot of them have to wait until their senior year," Clark said. "It is a special moment to be able to play out there on Friday in front of the whole Derby community. It makes it special each and every year, it never gets old," he added.
For the Panther defense, a bulk of the talent graduated last May leaving a few starters behind. Seniors like Brecken Kooser will look to lead the defense from his spot at defensive back. While on the outside that may be cause for concern, but for the Panther defense, it is a 'next man up' mentality.
"We've got some guys. We've got some sophomores that are juniors now that could have played last year, we just had that talented senior class on defense. It is kind of how things go around here," Clark commented. "We have some guys that are hungry and have paid their dues that are ready to step in," he added.
The offense will look to be the strong part of this Derby team, compared to the defense being the anchor in 2018. Derby will return a slew of starters, including Grant Adler and Davin Simms who will provide the air assault for the Panthers. While the air raid will be plentiful for the Panthers, most of their offensive production will fall on the shoulders of running back Tre Washington. Washington returns after a dominant state championship performance against Blue Valley North where he found his way into the end zone on numerous occasions. When asked about the running back, Coach Clark spoke on Washington's growth as a leader saying "Tre is really becoming a leader. He started becoming a leader over the summer. He has bought in, he's showed up to workouts and he has gotten better and obviously he is a very talented football player, just seeing him become a leader is pretty cool, too."
Where Derby will stand head and shoulders above the competition will be the play of the offensive line. A group that affectionately refers to themselves as the "Hoggies" has made a living creating lanes for the likes of Adler and Washington. Alex Conn, the recent Nebraska Cornhusker commit, will step in to his tackle position to protect Adler's blindside. He alongside Kevin Washington at center, who Clark says is one of the best offensive linemen he has coached, will lead the charge up front for the Panther offense.
Ultimately, this team isn't aiming to just win another championship, in fact the team rarely talks about it. Clark says the success Derby has seen is a product of what they've been able ti instill in players.
"We never talk about winning state championships, it is always about winning the day. Our goal is to put the most mature team on the field, whether it is mentally, physically,emotionally, spiritually, we want that. If you take those four things there is a lot to work on."
2019 DERBY SCHEDULE
9/6 - @ Garden City
9/13 - @ Salina Central
9/20 - vs Newton
9/27 - vs Bishop Carroll
10/4 - @ Salina South
10/11 - vs Hutchinson
10/18 - @ Campus
10/25 - vs Maize