After finishing the 2016 season with a disappointing 2-7 record, Nease head coach Tim Krause said this year’s team is focused on what’s ahead, instead of reflecting on the past.
“As a coaching staff, as players, as a team, I think we spent the offseason kind of putting last year to bed and moving on with what we have this year,” Krause told the Recorder following the Panthers’ 25-14 win against Yulee in their preseason Kickoff Classic. “We’re really excited with what our senior class is like and how they’re going to lead us. That’s the biggest thing we’re looking for, is guys that understand the expectation here is to win and to play really hard.”
One of those guys is senior Zach Sheffer, Nease’s starting tight end who is committed to play football next year at Louisiana State University (LSU). Sheffer said the team’s goal for this year is to take it one game at a time. Overall, he said the Panthers feel good about the season.
“We will definitely have a better season this year,” said Sheffer. “We've worked too hard not to.”
The tight end characterized the Panthers’ offensive this year as “complex and multiple.”
“We have a lot of formations, shifts and motions,” he said. “We are doing some different things this year that I think will pay off.”
Speaking of different, Nease will feature a signal caller this year who isn’t named Leighton Alley. The three-year starter graduated in May and is being succeeded by junior Preston Staples.
“He’s a much different player than Leighton, and anytime you’re replacing a three-year starter who has played as much football as Leighton, it’s a challenge to find your identity,” Krause said of Staples. “But he’s done a great job through the offseason, and did a good job in fall camp so we’re excited going forward.”
Also headlining the offense this year are senior running back Jareem Westcott and senior wide receiver Ashton Wood, who both provided the Panthers with firepower last year. Senior cornerbacks Kenny Whitehead and Trey Ragin and junior linebacker and safety Jacob Allsup are among a number of playmakers on the defensive side of the ball.
After losing its season opener to Ponte Vedra 24-13, the Panthers will look to pick up their first win of the season tomorrow, Sept. 1, when Nease hosts Orange Park at 7 p.m.