For complete Parkview coverage throughout the season, including rosters and schedules, go to the Parkview page on the Daily Post's prep sports site: www.gwinnettprepsports.com/parkview.
Parkview lost quite a bit of its production from a year ago with the graduation of leading rusher Chris Carson (1,100 yards, 11 TDs in just eight games), plus both players who shared time at quarterback last year in Rob Youngblood (graduation) and Mac Marshall (playing only baseball this year).
However, senior Justis Rosser (pictured), who will team with fellow senior Richard Walker, showed himself to be more than capable last season after stepping into the starting role following a season-ending injury to Carson, running for 743 yards and 10 TDs on just 130 carries.
And with Georgia State-committed fullback Brandon Sullivan and a big, strong offensive line led by returning starters G.G. Robinson (6-foot-3, 265 pounds) at tight end and Tra Malloy (6-2, 285) at strong tackle, the Panther should be able to establish a running game.
“Of course, we can’t really judge until we play somebody, but I think we’ve got some good people in the backfield,” Panthers head coach Cecil Flowe said. “And I think on the line of scrimmage, we can move some people around. We ought to be able to hold our own. We’re as big or bigger than we’ve been in a quite a few years.”
The biggest challenge may be deciding on a new quarterback, where sophomores Tyler Fleetwood and Jack Chambers are battling with junior Kalu Onumah for the starting job.
While Flowe says he has some idea who might get the nod based on preseason practice, he was still waiting for Parkview’s scrimmage against Mill Creek to bring more clarity to a situation that is still quite fluid.
So far, he likes what he’s seen, not only from the quarterbacking trio, but from the entire offense.
“Those guys are really competing,” Flowe said of the quarterback race. “Hopefully, what we see will pan out. It’ll be whoever steps to the front. Right now, one day it’s one, and then the next day, it’s another.
“Offensively, I think we’re way ahead of where we were (this time) last year. We just need to get game tested.”
The Panthers return four major-impact starters from a stingy unit that allowed just 15.7 points per game a year ago, good for fourth in Gwinnett County.
All of those players are either in the linebacker corps, including seniors John Patterson (107 tackles, 4 sacks) and Rosser (50 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 2 INTs), or in the secondary, led by seniors Bryce Lewis (62 tackles) and Turshard Kimble-Brinson (37 tackles, 2 INTs).
On the other hand, the line will be an area of intense focus with three starting positions to fill thanks to graduation.
“We got strong play from guys like Hunter (Thornton) and Micah (Finley ) and Sam (Wiillis) last year,” Flowe said. “We’ve got to replace those guys, and you don’t just pop somebody in there. In terms of quickness, it’s hard to duplicate that. We’ve got to move from gap to gap.
“The secondary, for the most part, is secure, but I’m still not convinced (about the line). We’re just going to have to see what they can do against a real team.”
Among those getting that opportunity to show what they can do include seniors Zach Scott, Jared Geiger and Grant Wentz.
PANTHER PRIDE IS BACK
After a period of six years in which the Panthers never won more than seven games or made it past the first round of the postseason, last year’s 9-4 campaign that included a trip to the Class AAAAAA state playoffs brought back memories of the program’s most dominant era.
The Panthers made it to at least the quarterfinals every year from 1995-2005, with six trips to the state championship game, four of which ended in titles.
As tough as just getting out of Region 8 has been lately with the presence of 2010 Class AAAAA state champion Brookwood and 2011 title winner Grayson, Flowe says his players are still not in position to take anything for granted.
However, he does note that last year’s big season, which included breaking Grayson’s 17-game winning streak has given the Panthers their confidence, if not their swagger, back.
But he also has impressed upon them the need to fight fiercely to keep it.
“You have to earn that respect every year,” Flowe said. “It’s not just given to you. I think they understand the edge they need to play up to.”