Panthers expect to be rewarded after last season

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Superior Sun

The 2013 season was difficult for everyone associated with the Panthers football program. Head coach Ryan Palmer was forced to play one of the most difficult schedules in any division with a varsity roster filled with freshmen. The Panthers expect to reap the rewards from last years’ experience in 2014.

Make no mistake, Palmer isn’t complaining. The group of freshmen he had last year may turn out to be one of the most talented groups of student-athletes to ever play at Superior High School. He knew last year would be tough but always kept an eye toward the future.

“Experience is a great attribute,” Palmer told the Superior Sun. “Everyone on this team has played in a varsity football game, except for two freshmen. I’m sure that experience is going to be very helpful throughout this season.”

Multi-sport athlete Gage Cruz returns at quarterback for the Panthers. He was impressive in his first varsity season, proving be among the most dynamic players in the state in any division. He combines arm-strength, speed, and mobility to make plays for the Panthers’ offense. Running backs Edgar Pacheco, Michael Salazar, and wide receivers Matthew Zavala and Austin Navarrette give Cruz a number of playmakers to get the ball to.

The defensive unit needs to show the most improvement in order for the Panthers to truly flip the page on last season and they should. Linebackers Marcus Hiracheta, Zavala, and Pacheco have the speed and strength to make plays anywhere on the field. Senior defensive lineman Richard Ochoa is expected to have the best season of his career.

Fifteen players return in 2014, anxious to improve on last season’s 1 – 7 record. Staying healthy is always important to a team’s success. In addition, the Panthers need to remain disciplined and determined in order to achieve their goals, according to Palmer.

The Panthers open their season this week, on Friday, August 22, 2014 at Duncan. The game is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.

Andy Luberda (919 Posts)

Andrew Luberda began writing for Copper Area News Publishers (CANP) in February 2013 after working 15 years in Healthcare Financial Management. Andy covers sports for 11 high schools. His stories are published in Copper Basin News, San Manuel Miner and Superior Sun, in addition to the San Tan Valley Daily PRSS and CopperArea websites. Additionally, he has written human interest stories and business profiles. In May 2012, he earned an AAS in Sports Management at Central Arizona College before graduating with a BS in Communication from Arizona State University in 2014. He and his wife, Kelli, have three sons – AJ, Kyle, and Kade.


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