The Cumberland Gap Panthers, following one of if not the toughest season in its history, has pulled a name from back in the early 2000s to lead the program. DeLynn Cline has the pedigree to lead this return and if history repeats, the Panthers will soon be contenders again.
Cline has been serving the school as Athletic Director but will now return to the sidelines as head football coach. When asked about how his feelings were going into this new endeavour he replied, “At first I was hesitant but the closer to the season we got the more I began to accept it. Now I am glad I chose to do this. I am very happy now with my choice to lead these young men.”
The Panthers football team has over 40 players coming to the practices and all seem to be excited about the upcoming season. Assisting Cline in implementing not only a new style of football but also trying to shift the culture into expecting wins are Greg Snyder, Jordan Ballew, Scott Bullins and Ronald Lambert is serving as a character coach.
Jacob Bullins, Garland Ellis and Brady Pearman are currently trying to nail down the starting QB job but Cline expects them to all have roles. The offense for them to run is one which includes the entire team and each person is expected to do their individual job on a play-by-play basis. This is one specific that the coaches want the team to learn. The offense will assist the defense by supporting longer drives and giving time for them to rest but will at times still take the long shot down the field.
Preston England, Tyler Thompson, Keatin Cornett and Matt Muggridge will compete for time at the running back position but all will get a shot during the course of the season. Coach Cline said this of his running backs, “England has been working hard and running well but really all of our backs are working hard and trying to improve.”
Joe Creech and Bryce Rogers are working hard at the receiver position and joining them as tight end will be Anthony Carranza but before the play actually begins the line will have to do its job and the staff all say that they have a line that can be as good as they want to be. Names like Sam Gibbons, Dean Turner, Alec Barnard, Tanner Boles and more have the chance to control the line of scrimmage. Many if not all these players will serve time on the defensive line as well. “Our linemen are working hard and learning to play together as a unit,” said Cline.
Health is an issue on both sides of the ball and according to coaches they can not afford to have an injury and are doing their practices to keep players healthy while at the same time having them to do the needed things in preparation of the new season.
The defensive style will feature multiple defenses with an odd front and many personnel from the offensive side will serve as linebackers, corners and in the safety positions. The safety position is another spot that is awaiting someone to step up and claim as their own.
When asked about his team’s strength Cline said, “They all desire to get better and that is this team’s strong point.” When asked about the weakness he added, “The big one is depth and our unknowns at certain positions on the field.”
The Panthers coaching staff will continue to work on the fundamentals with their overall number one objective being to take one play at a time and not worrying about this weeks opponent. The new Panthers team will focus on the play in front of them and grow as a team and if they commit to doing this coach Cline believes that his team can find success and be competitive in many games.
The Panthers will open their schedule at home against Hancock County August 26.
Reach Allen Earl at 423-254-5588 or on Twitter @pitchadude.