The Ben Owens era has started at Cumberland Gap. He was named the head coach of the middle school Panthers football team and is now working hard to get his players ready for the 2016 season opener.
Although his team is relatively small in numbers, Owens is actively recruiting in the hallways of the eligible schools.
“We are coming into this season as a young team, not only in age but in experience. We have several that are learning football for the first time ever,” said Owens when asked about his team.
The Panthers have decided on the quarterback position and several other spots but they still have a few open for competition. The defense will utilize several offensive starters, like most area football teams, as the lack of depth is a concern for the middle school Panthers as well.
The team will have a season that is made up of mostly away games. There are only two home games on the schedule including the opener August 18 against Jacksboro and then September 1 against Horace Maynard.
Being inconsistent at the head coaching spot has hurt the Panthers middle school team and when asked about that Owens said, “We have had a lot of change over in head coach but I am planning on being here for five years and seeing my kids come through the program.”
The practice August 9 saw the young players make the expected mistakes which were quickly addressed by the coaching staff. Some times the team looked lost and at other times you could see that they were buying into the new system.
Owens spoke of the changes that the team has experienced since the start of practices, “This team is improving daily and has progressed greatly since day one. I believe that our strength lies in the entire team’s willingness to learn.”
When asked about his team’s weakness he said this, “I think our weakness is our youth and inexperience at several spots but we are a talented team and the players are working so hard to get better.”
The program seems to be heading in a good direction that will make the Panthers a better and more rounded middle school football team. The parents, boosters and community are supportive and that will make even more of a difference in changing the culture and rebuilding a fine Panthers middle school football program.
Team members include Xavier Akers, Trevor Ayers, Cameron Brock, Carter Daniels, Samuel Douglass, Bryson Ellis, Jeremiah Fuson, Matthew Graves, Avery Hatfield, Ranger Hensley, James Makes, Tyler Mayes, Samuel McCorkel, Logan Napier, Lance Owens, Noah Ramsey, Cade Rogers, Samuel Seals, Curtis Sutton, Ethan Thomas, Kenny Vaughn and Chandler Wilder.
The Panthers coaching staff consists of Ben Owens, Jason Wilder, Don Ellis, Jeremy Jones and Nick Nash.
Reach Allen Earl at 423-254-5588 or on Twitter @pitchadude.