Last season, the Panthers finished second in the area to the Cougars. First-year head coach Brooks Dampeer said his team is excited about Friday’s match up.
“It is a great opportunity,” Dampeer said. “The kids are excited mainly because it is the next Friday and we are blessed to play each week. Anytime you bring in a quality team like they are it is a great opportunity to show what we can do.”
Pell City improved their overall record to 3-0 and their region record to 2-0 with a 41-0 win last Friday against Grissom. The Panthers got off to a slow start, but they were able to score 20 points in the second quarter and 14 points in the third quarter to put the game out of reach.
“The opening possession they turned the ball over, we failed to capitalize,” Dampeer said. “We were on the 35. We went for it on fourth down and we checked and everybody didn’t get the check. We gave it back to them. Then, Jaylen Lipscomb picked up a fumble about two plays later and took it in for a touchdown. After that everybody said let’s go play. We got going offensively and scored a couple of times. We hit a long ball to Ira (Burch) before the half, so that got us going. We came out in the second half and scored on the first play of the second half. I think we scored one more time. We got the opportunity to play a lot of the younger kids, so it is always good when they get rewarded with that. “
While the team struggled in the first game offensively, in the last two games the Panthers have outscored their opponents 75-7.
“Looking at the season, we started slow offensively, but it is a process and that’s naturally going to happen,” Dampeer said. “The past couple of games we have found a lot more rhythm and the offensive line is gelling together. That is always good and as they go we go. Our quarterback is getting comfortable and doing the things we are asking him to do. Along the way we are finding out that we have to be more aggressive in the play calling early in the game, so that has helped us. Any way we get yardage early in the game always gives us confidence, so that is something we have to make sure we do each Friday.”
Going into Week four, the Panthers have one of the top defenses in Class 6A. The Pell City defense has held their opponents to 4.6 points per game in the first three weeks.
“If you don’t give up a lot of points you always have a great chance to win,” Dampeer said. “They are running to the ball very well. Coach (Maxwell) Thurman is really preparing them well defensively. They are giving great effort running to the ball swarming. We’ve had some missed tackles, but we are getting everybody there, so two or three are tackling. It has been a blessing the way they have been playing.”
Dampeer believes winning the special teams battle and not giving up big plays will be vital if the Panthers are going to upset Clay Chalkville.
“Key to victory is to win the special teams,” he said. “If we can capitalize in that and win special teams we feel good about that part of the game. They have weapons that can score on kickoff return and punt return, so we have to make sure there is no penalties special team-wise. We have to hold on to the ball, move the ball offensively. Defensively, we have to keep them from making the big play. If we don’t give up the big play defensively, don’t give a big play on special teams and we can move the football we feel like we will have a chance. Again it is a great opportunity for our staff and players to play against a team that is so well thought of in our state.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. from Pete Rich Stadium in Pell City.