BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) -- The Normangee Panthers returned to the playoffs after missing the previous year. The Panthers started slowly, dropping four of their first six games, but rallied for three shut out wins in their final four district games to earn a postseason berth.
Alto knocked Normangee out in the bi-district round. Nelson Kortis stepped down as Panthers head coach after the season. He went 13-20 in three seasons as head coach.
The Panthers enter 2019 under new leadership, as Keith Sitton returns to the sidelines as a head coach for the first time since 2015. Sitton went 48-55 in ten seasons at Leon, and takes over the Panthers after spending the past three years on staff at Madisonville.
He takes over what he thinks is a talented squad. “We were very young last year so a season of experience should greatly benefit us this year. We must stay healthy, but if we can we should be greatly improved. Transitioning from one system to another on offense and defense will be the telling factor.
If we can hit the ground running in new systems, without growing pains, we could be very successful.” Eight starters are back on offense, four on the line and four at skill positions. “We will be solid at the skill positions,” says Sitton. “Luke Yellott and Izaha Jones are extremely talented athletes and explosive playmakers.
Mason Hardy is a smart, experienced, extremely hard-working QB. He is a great leader, we will count on him and lean on his experience to lead us.” Eight starters are also back on defense, led by Clifton Boatright on the line. Sitton says, “He is a strong, fast, outstanding player. He will move around up front to make the offense account for him.
Linebacker Denton Young is fast and decisive. He runs to the ball well and is always around the football. Brady Harris is a very strong, very smart player. We will look for him to help control the inside run on the line.
Cornerback Brandon Brooks is a good cover guy and at 6’2 still runs very well.” The Panthers face the same strong non-district slate they did a year ago, but with three home games this time around. “We face a lot of playoff tradition-rich teams. If we can weather the storm it will definitely prepare us for the rigors of the district and hopefully the playoffs.
Bremond, Lovelady, Grapeland and rival Iola plus an athletic New Waverly will be tough non-district games,” says Sitton. “In district, Centerville and Leon played multiple rounds in the playoffs last year, and Cayuga has a majority of its team returning.”