August 18, 2010 10:08:00 AM
Friday night is showtime for the West Lowndes High School football team.
At some point this season, coach Bobby Berry hopes the Panthers'' play graduates to capital letter status. For now, though, the veteran coach would like to see his players back up all of their talk on the field.
It''s not that West Lowndes has been burning the phone lines with fabulous boasts. Berry is just eager to see his players prove to him their confidence -- and potential -- is real.
West Lowndes, which is coming off a disappointing 5-5 season that ended with a four-game losing streak that left the team out of the playoffs, will try to get things re-energized at 7:30 p.m. Friday when it plays host to West Oktibbeha.
"It is a wait-and-see game," Berry said. "The kids can say they''re ready, but you have to see if they are ready to walk the walk. I tell them every day you have have to show me and not talk. Anybody can talk, but you have to show me you can play."
Berry isn''t as concerned about all of the talk this season because he knows he has an experienced group. The Panthers lost playmakers like Andra Farmer and Brandon Hill, who is at Mississippi State, from last season, but Berry believes the camaraderie the players have developed from years of playing together will be a bonus that could give the team an advantage.
An experienced offensive line could help Berry realize his goal of having a balanced offense. He will look to quarterbacks Gerald Sanders and Jamarquis Humphries to direct an attack that figures to have plenty of options in the passing game.
"Both of them have been working pretty good and throwing the ball pretty good," Berry said. "As well as we go it is going to depend on our offensive line."
Berry said the Panthers need to take care of the football and to remain focused early in games, things they struggled with last season, so they can utilize that passing game when they want to, not when they have to.
Potential is the word on defense, too. Berry feels his team has the ability to stop people largely because of depth. He said he has confidence in as many as 25 players to see time on that side of the ball.
How well all of those factors come together could determine if this season is any different from last year. The Panthers didn''t play in a jamboree last week, so they could have a few more growing pains to sort out Friday night. But Berry hopes his team will show a strong work ethic and live up to its talk.
"You have to have a strong work ethic and really go out and pay the price," Berry said. "That is what I try to teach every day. You can never take a play off. As soon as you take a play off, that is the time they run right at you."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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