Cumberland Gap High School held a seven-on-seven competition for area football teams on July 16 which included Hancock, Jellico and Grainger among other schools. It was a hot, humid evening when players took the field to stretch and begin the competitions.
Four teams took the field at once — two teams competing on one end and two on the other. Grainger County was one of the first to take the field and had a new, but familiar face guiding the quarterbacks. Former Bulldogs head coach Barry Liles is now the quarterbacks coach for Grainger County and said he loves the new gig.
Soon after the Panthers took the field they looked solid, but at times still looked like a young team.
According to Panthers head coach Cory Russell, the team is improving. “We are actually a young team still, but we see improvement almost daily now.”
Other coaches said the team was crawling and had just learned to walk.
Russell explained what he hoped participating team members would learn from the competition when he said, “I hope that the team learns to keep focusing on the fundamentals; making sure that they were doing their jobs fundamentally correct.”
Defensively the Panthers intercepted a few balls, but at times were subject to the deep ball and required additional instruction from the coaches. Each time they seemed to take in the criticism and try to improve.
“The main goal of these competitions is for each team to simply improve and get better,” said Russell. “This is not a tournament — it’s just a chance to get out here and let the coaches see each other and improve as teams.”
On the other hand, it was also a chance for potential rivals to see the competition. In regards to the competition Russell added, “Everybody seems to think that there are big secrets in football but when it comes down to it there’s not. It comes down to execution.”
For the Panthers the 2015 season will begin Aug. 28 and this talented team hopes to turn it around this season and surprise a few more teams — if they can stay healthy.
Reach Allen Earl at 423-254-5588 or on Twitter @pitchadude.