Prior to last season, Akron Manchester had not missed the playoffs since 1990 and had claimed 16 of the last 17 Principal’s Athletic Conference titles. Though young, the Panthers are looking to return to the postseason behind some talented and experienced players this year. Matt Natali has more.
RB Zac Kreakbaum (5-11, 190, Sr.), WR/DB Aaron Hunter (5-8, 160, Jr.), LB Kory Hull (6-2, 170, Jr.), TE Alex Lloyd (6-3, 210, Sr.), OL Mike Graves (6-2, 220, Sr.), QB Steve King (5-9, 170, Soph.)
2006 Record: 7-3
Prior to last season, Akron Manchester had not missed the playoffs since 1990 and had claimed 16 of the last 17 Principal’s Athletic Conference titles.
The Panthers will only have about eight seniors on the roster this season but head coach Jim France is optimistic in the amount of players he will have out.
“We’re pretty thin in terms of players coming back. We’ll have about 60 kids out on the team but we were really young last year,” he said.
Kreakbaum will be the focal point of Manchester’s offense after rushing for 1,600 yards and 26 TDs last year.
“Coming into this year, we are going to have to build everything we do around him. He is the only back we have coming back and he is also a linebacker on defense,” France said.
Though young, sophomore QB Steve King already has a year’s worth of varsity experience under center.
“Hopefully he’ll be a little bit more matured and seasoned and a lot better this year. We might be able to do some things with him,” France said.
“Even though we were young last year we’re still going to be young this year. (Our players) got a lot of good experience. We usually don’t play sophomores. They’ve got to be really special and Kreakbaum was. The rest of the sophomores that started for us last year are real athletic but don’t necessarily have much size.
“We are usually a fairly physical team and like to run the ball, so we might have to change our approach to the game a little bit this year. But we are looking forward to a different type of football.”
With a huge hit to the offensive and defensive lines, Manchester will have to fill some holes in those areas.
“Where we’re really going to have to work hard and develop in the offensive and defensive line. That is where we lost most of our kids so we’ll have to replace most of them,” said France.
Lloyd and Graves both saw significant time on the field last year and should fill in nicely on the line, according to France.
“I think the strong points are our work habits and we have good, quality kids. We were a little disappointed last year going 7-3 and didn’t win the league so, the kids have worked hard in the off-season,” he said.
“The athleticism is there but we’re lacking some size. These are good kids and they work hard so we’re just going to have to develop them.”
Despite being a young team, the Panthers hope to get back into the playoffs but, as usual, the road will be tough.
“I think our non-league schedule (Smithville, Mogadore Field, Black River) is pretty tough for us. Our league will be real strong, especially with (Massillon) Tuslaw, (Tuscarawas Valley) and (Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy); and the rest will be trying to catch up.”
And Region 13 will not be any easier should Manchester qualify for the postseason with the addition of Steubenville to mix and mainstays Cardinal Mooney, CVCA, Canton Central Catholic, Tuslaw, Orrville and Tuscarawas Valley among others.
“(Region 13) has always has been tough and now, you’re adding Steubenville,” France said.
“I think we are three boys above D-V so that makes us one of the smaller D-IV schools and that makes it a little tougher for us, too. It is hard when some schools basically play a Division I schedule and the playoffs start and they are in Division IV – it makes it tough for all the schools our size.
“It will be tough but we would just like to get back in the playoffs.”
|8/31/2007||@ Mogadore Field||3|
|9/7/2007||Sullivan Black River||4|
|9/28/2007||@ Wooster Triway||4|
|10/5/2007||Zoarville Tuscarawas Valley||4|
|10/12/2007||@ Massillon Tuslaw||4|
|10/19/2007||@ Canton Timken||2|
|10/26/2007||Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy||4|