Pelion, SC (Paul Kirby) “It’s definitely a new time,” Pelion Head Coach Dann Holland declared after the Pelion Panthers soundly defeated Calhoun County Friday night in their home opener. The Panthers defeated the Saints in the Panther Den 33-22.
First, some of you may be saying that an 11-point victory isn’t that impressive. For those doubters I would say, consider that the majority of the Saint’s points came late in the game when Pelion put in some of their younger, smaller, less experienced boys, to allow them a little play time. Late in the 3rd quarter, Pelion led 33-6, certainly a convincing score.
Second, although Pelion beat the Saints, it wasn’t because their opponents were an unconditioned, untalented, and unmotivated bunch. Calhoun was well coached, physical, and fought hard to the final buzzer. I give them their props for the fight they fought; they were just outplayed by the Panthers who gelled when they needed to.
Third, and most importantly, although Pelion has some single talents that certainly stand out, they don’t depend on those shining stars to carry them; they look good as a team, a whole, cohesive unit.
Certainly, Jeremiah Green has absolute super star potential on the Pelion side as a running back. This young man had 314 total yards of rushing, something he’d accomplished in just the first three quarters of the game. He also had 22 carries, and eventually 4 touchdowns by the final click of the clock. No one had the record book in hand, but most believed that this is a school record set in just game one of the season. This boy is smart, athletic, and motivated to make the big plays with great feet, and hands to boot. He has the ability to get the ball in his hands, and then keep it there, a skill that’s a must for a playmaker like Green.
Green’s not alone in his ability to jaunt down the field with a parade of defenders trailing behind in a fruitless parade. Dayrun Keith, a wide receiver, also has a great deal of talent, running more than half the field in the 2nd quarter to start the scoring for the Panthers. He has the talent and the physical ability to make plays against a team that’s pressing in. He’s fast, agile, and with a few blockers doing their part, will stack up more points for the Panthers this season.
Even Pelion’s young quarterback, Pryce Whitten, is a shining ray of hope for the Panthers. Yes, as a sophomore playing the opener, I saw some of the jitters, the overthrown passes, the incompletions, but I also saw the developing talent. Pryce can throw, he can scramble when flushed from the pocket, and he can unload in appropriate ways, so as not to draw a flag, when the pressure is on. He's smart, and has the ability to think on his feet, something coaches at the collegiate level love in a QB.
He can also take a hit, but that scares me a bit. Although he quickly shook every hard hit off, he’s somewhat small. He could easily draw an injury that could end his season even before it starts if he takes too many of those slammers. If Whitten stays healthy, he could develop into a multitalented threat that could add to Pelion’s offense for the rest of this year, and two more. One suggestion for Coach Holland. He needs to partner with Pelion’s award-winning agricultural program to develop a fertilizer that could make Bryce shoot up a few extra inches, and put on a little extra upper body mass. He’s great, but little, and the extra height and weight would make him even better than he is.
Whitten is also a leader, constantly prowling the sideline offering words of encouragement to his teammates, high-fiving and yelling his lust for the win at the top of his lungs at the the bench when he was off the field. Near the 4th quarter, he'd almost lost his voice. Even when the defense was on the field doing their job, he never sat down. He was leading, as all great quarterbacks should.
Here’s the real deal, the Panthers are playing with these standouts, but also as a team. The offensive line protects Whitten, giving him time to throw or make the decision to run. They're big, physical, and have the ability to stop the rush in a violent, bashing, clashing way.
On the defensive's side, they are strong, fast, and a real threat to their opponent. They sacked the quarterback so many times, I lost count. I know I saw Calhoun’s QB go down in the backfield 7 or 8 times. Many times, Pelion’s defenders simply swatted the Calhoun defenders aside like the spectators in the stands swatted the gnats that Pelion’s known for. For some reason, I had visions of a knife and hot butter, a cliché I know, but absolutely appropriate. As the big guys made the holes, Pelion's rushers rocketed through, constantly pressuring Calhoun's QB to either take the hit or make a mistake.
To sum this up, Pelion played as a team, and the scoreboard reflected this. Coach Holland said, “We stressed to them all during camp, play as a team, and be a great team-mate. We had a great camp and a great summer, and these boys now understand how important that entire team concept can be.” Holland went on to say, “Were going to spend the next week cleaning up the mistakes, and we’ll be even better next week. These boys like the way that winning feels, so we’ll do everything we can to give them more of that to enjoy over the rest of the season.” I think Holland wants them to become addicted to the feeling.
If the Panthers continue to implement their plan in the coming weeks, stay healthy, and continue to play together as a team as they did Friday night, they'll have a great season ahead.
Next week, the Panthers face their neighbors across the North Edisto, Wagener. That game will be back at the Panther Den with the kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Pelion Head Coach Dan Holland
ion Head Coach Dann Holland