Football: Panthers look to next year

Rappahannock County head coach Terrence Johnson, right, signals touchdown in the first quarter of the Panthers game against Hundred, W.Va. Photo by Christine Krapf.

After Friday night’s 53-13 loss to Hundred High School, Rappahannock County head varsity football coach Terrence Johnson started to make plans.

Post-season plans.

“Several of the guys, particularly the eighth graders, have come and talked to me about the off-season,” Johnson said. “If our players are not involved in basketball or wrestling in the winter, the weight room will be open. The kids need to live and die in that weight room.”

The strength and conditioning that the Panthers gain in those off-season workouts should pay dividends next fall when Rappahannock returns to a Group A Bull Run District schedule.

“We were in the game Friday for most of the game, but we got tired and started to hang our heads a little bit,” said Johnson, whose Panthers finished the season with a 1-9 record, including a four-game losing streak. “But we didn’t give up. We fought until the last whistle.”

Freshman fullback Billy Hogan accounted for Rappahannock County’s two, first-half touchdowns. He will be one of 13 varsity players returning for the 2011 campaign.

Aside from serving as the head coach for Rappahannock County’s varsity basketball team, Johnson will spend his off-season supervising workouts and recruiting players to join his program.

“I’m getting a full off-season with these guys,” he said, “and I think that will make a whole world of difference.”

Despite the score, Johnson continued to see positives in the way that his Panthers played.

In the second quarter, a false start and a bad snap over Hogan’s head left Rappahannock County facing a third-and-44 situation deep in its territory. The situation did not rattle freshman quarterback Dylan Hitt, who dropped back and hit sophomore tailback Matt Lombardi on a screen pass for a 35-yard pick up.

While it would have been nice to earn the first down, Johnson pointed out that he liked the way the pass play developed.
“There’s enough positive things from each person to take away from this season,” he added. “It’s about the fundamentals and execution. We improved week by week. I commend the kids for sticking with it and fighting through it.”

Hogan, Lombardi and Hitt should be among the players that Johnson builds the 2011 Panthers around.

Hitt will also have Tim Ridgeway, Andrew Oyster and JaQuarre Hill back as receiving targets. A good portion of the offensive/defensive lines return in starters Britt Hipple, Smith Cliffton and Logan Vest.

“We finished the season with no big injuries, and 98 percent of the players will be back. We can build on that,” Johnson added.

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