Panthers hunting for another title

By Randy Robbins, Pilot staff writer August 28, 2013 12:03 am

One of Gold Beach High School’s football team captains runs the ball during a pre-season scrimmage. The Pilot/Randy Robbins
One of Gold Beach High School’s football team captains runs the ball during a pre-season scrimmage. The Pilot/Randy Robbins
When the Gold Beach High School (GBHS) football team steps onto the green grass of their home turf — Jay Johnson Stadium — Friday evening for a pre season test against Salem Acadamy, look closely, you might see some swagger.

It’s not arrogance in that walk, it’s measured confidence.

Making it to the quarterfinals again last year before succumbing to eventual state champion Oakland, the Panthers are hungry. 

Around the halls of GBHS the “Men-In-Black” are getting that 2007 and 2011 championship feeling once again. 

Perhaps with good reason. 

Perhaps because Panthers head coach Kevin Swift feels he may have yet another of football’s perfect storms brewing with his upcoming 2013 team.

The long time Panthers’ boss has seen many winners in his 17-year tenure and he knows this team contains the five “S’s” — speed, size, strength, stamina and, most importantly, seniors. 

These are qualities that set great teams apart from the good ones. 

The Panthers’ roster has 10 seniors and that brings a smile to Swift’s face.

“Those kids have all grown up and are ready for prime time now,” Swift said.

Sprinkle in a small measure of behind-the-scenes drama — Swift has resigned as football coach effective the end of the season — and a certain sense of urgency adds new understanding of the phrase, “Win one for the Gipper.” 

According to comments made by running back Micheal Romsa this past summer, “We have some unfinished business to take care of.”

The Panthers struggled to an 8-4 finish last year after losing all their linemen to graduation. The team also had all new faces in the backfield for the past season.

Despite last year’s finish, Swift is expecting good things from returning senior quarterback C.J. Maxwell. 

“I look for C.J. to open things up this year,” Swift said. “He was still learning the ropes last year, but he’s got it down now and he’s got a lot of help back there.”

The help in the backfield comes from a deadly triple-veer style option-offense package that can pack a wallop. 

It contains twin battering-ram backs, senior Micheal Romsa and junior J.R. Keeler, along with a speedy tailback, Colton Pearson. 

Pearson figures to be a serious outside threat who scored twice in the Panthers’ summer camp Best of the Beach Scrimmage-A-Thon.

“Pearson is going to take it to some people this year,” Swift said, “and Romsa is an animal.”

The Panthers aren’t limited to just a run game though, as Maxwell will have a versatile Panthers receiving force at his beck and call. 

The quarterback has demonstrated he can deliver the pass and has some sticky-fingered wide receivers that possess the height and weight in seniors Dustin Carter and Garrett Litterell. 

Factor in the tight ends, senior Derek Carl and junior Raef Williams, for the quick out routes, and opposing defenses will be left guessing. 

Expect to see more connections between  Maxwell and Carter in the passing lanes this season.

Swift is also excited about having Litterell on board. 

“Garrett is a stud,” Swift said. “He is a well-disciplined, smart, great, all-around athlete and will be a key player in our program.” 

Litterell will play defensive back on the other side of the ball.

Holding it all together is a big and experienced Panther line ready to engage in trench warfare. GBHS returns senior Brandon Adams who was a wrestling state champion. 

Swift has shifted Adams to center in order to anchor the offensive line. Adams is joined by seniors Cole Walker, Brandon Hensley and Dillon Kreiger, as well as junior Mauricio Boydston.

Swift said even though his line has proven size, experience and strength, he has trimmed them down a bit to make them faster.

“We were about 30 pounds per athlete heavier than last year,” Swift said. “And I think it cost us a step or two coming off the line.” 

The Panthers will face some strong competition in preseason. Among them will be found Regis, Cascade Christian, and Lost River. 

“Nothing will come easy,” Swift said.

Swift is confident in his squad and is holding them to the typical high standard found in the Panthers’ football program.

“It’s up to the kids,” Swift said, “But I can tell you they are motivated. They have been working extremely hard to put our brand of Panther football out on the field.” 

The Panthers will add Swift’s father, Ken, and return all but two of last year’s coaching staff to the sidelines.

As Swift headed into his final year at the helm of the Panthers’ football program he reflect on a program that has a 50-13 record during his tenure.

“Last year I let the kids have a little more latitude to do little things down on the field,” he said. “Not this year. We will play Swift ball. My way. Period.”

Swift paused and then offered, “Oh yeah, if another team lines up against my kids they better be ready, because my kids will be.”