Panthers off to the perfect start they envisioned

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?

That is happening for the Parkway Panthers football team and coach Coy Brotherton.

After a convincing 24-6 homefield victory over rival Haughton in the league opener, the Panthers were a unanimous choice as the Shreveport-Bossier Journal Team of the Week.

Not only is Parkway unbeaten through four games, and 1-0 in District 1-5A, but the Panthers’ defense hasn’t given up a point in three games. That piece wasn’t in Brotherton’s plan – but a clean start was in his vision.

No disrespect to the non-district opponents – Minden, Red River and Bossier – but they were all lower-division teams that a solid Parkway program expects to handle. Other than the opening 43-41 escape from the Crimson Tide, the Panthers have cruised forward, outscoring the next three teams 108-6.

But starting district against the Bucs provided a stiff test, which Parkway passed, opening a 24-0 halftime lead. The Bucs were playing without their starting quarterback and lost a key lineman, and their only score came on a long fourth-quarter fumble return.

The following game – this Friday’s encounter with another 1-0 district foe, Captain Shreve – completes a pivotal two-step for Parkway’s chances to be dancing into postseason.

“It (4-0) was attainable,” said Brotherton. “We knew all spring to this point, these first two district games will kinda make or break our year, show us where we’re going to be able to aim at the end of the (district) season.”

The Panthers were confident about their defense, and had no worries in the kicking game with Aeron Burrell back for his senior season as unquestionably one of the country’s top specialists.

Parkway installed a different defensive scheme this year, running a “Bear” defense (mostly a 5-2 front), counting on its veteran players to make the adjustment. They certainly have done so in the past three games.

“We did have some guys back on defense, so that was going to be a plus for us,” said Brotherton. “The defense has played well the last three weeks. We struggled in Week 1 at Minden, and that was alarming.

“Our defensive coaches, coach (Dillion) Jackson and his guys, got those kids ready to play. In the last three weeks, we haven’t given up a touchdown, so that’s good. And we’ve scored in every game on defense. That’s pretty impressive, what they’ve been able to do.”

As for Burrell, his kicking and punting have been as flawless as expected, and he’s getting better now.

“He’s not even 100 percent yet, battling some injuries from last year, but in the last three weeks he’s started to look healthy again and that’s been a bonus,” said Brotherton. “This (Haughton) was the first game he’s kicked off the entire game, because we were just easing him back into it, but he’s a full go now.”

The key questions offensively were in the backfield. So far, they’ve been exclamation points.

“It’s been good to get Antonio Gladney at running back and KB (Kaleb Williams) at quarterback some experience under their belts,” said Brotherton, whose offense is averaging 30 points per game. “They’ve gotten better each week – that’s always the goal, I know coaches say that all the time – but for us and our youth, that was important and it looks like they’ve done that.”

The Panthers’ secret to success is pretty basic.

“We’ve done a good job getting better each week. We’ve done well protecting the football. Those are things we need to continue to do,” said Brotherton. “When you’re young at key positions, they can look good one play and then do something bone-headed the next one. We’ve got to continue to eliminate those bone-headed plays.”

The defense, the heartbeat of this Parkway team, is particularly critical this week. Coming off a rivalry win, and facing an explosive, multi-dimensional Shreve offense, Parkway must be focused. Brotherton has no worries about that aspect.

“We’ve counted on those (defensive) guys to be leaders this year,” he said. “We have a good group of kids who have bought into the system. This is our fourth year here as a staff, so we’re the only coaches they know.

“They’re good kids to be around. I don’t think the emotions of last week will have any ill effect on the way they prepare this week.”

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