Their role, they know, is a critical one. The Panthers head into the 2012 season stockpiled with speed and skill-position talent. Players such as running back Marquis Fells and quarterback Corey Hartz form the core of an offense that should flash plenty of big-play potential.Still, Panthers coach Brad Livingston knows that without cohesiveness up front, his team won't open up enough holes on offense -- or snuff out enough drives on defense -- to let those speedsters take over.
Hence those early workouts.
"We've spent a lot of time together," Livingston said, referring to his offensive line, "and most times it's the highlight of my day."
Three returners along that line -- senior Asyck Schildt and juniors Shane Walker and Eric Ramirez -- earned significant time last season, and Livingston said he was pleased with the progress that group had shown leading up to the start of camp.
At the skill positions, Central appears to be set. Fells should be the focal point of the offense, after leading the team in rushing last year (738 yards, five TDs). The receiving corps -- including Darian Hampton and Jay Stone -- also should be strong, despite the graduation of one of the area's top pass catchers, Jalil Ford.
At quarterback, Hartz will replace Brandon Baker, who threw a league-best 31 touchdowns and just five interceptions last season. Hartz has showed poise during spot duty in the past.
"It's a big plus because it's not like we're having to break somebody in," Livingston said of Hartz. "Even when he was playing receiver last year, he kept his hand in the quarterback position when he could."
The Panthers' defense could be a bigger question, with just three full-time starters returning -- Fells at linebacker, along with Hartz and Buffalo commit Andrews Dadeboe in the secondary. Still, Livingston lauded in his defensive line, calling it the Panthers' deepest position on defense. Seniors Chris Shultz and Randy Pham will be counted on to anchor that unit.
Save the date: As always, the Panthers' season starts off against perhaps their fiercest rival. But that Week 1 clash with West York is about more than just bragging rights. Last year, when Central beat the Bulldogs for the first time in four tries, it acted as a harbinger for the success that followed.
"It sets the tone for the season basically, how we play in the first game," senior tight end Nate Trona said.
Intangibles: As is typically the case when a successful group of seniors graduates, a new set of Central players will have to fill the leadership void. Still, it seems confidence has carried over from last year's playoff run, when the Panthers nearly knocked off eventual state champion Central Dauphin in the District 3 semifinals.
"In a way, we lost a lot," Fells said. "And in another way, we didn't. Most of us out here have a lot of experience."
Bottom line: The amount of speed Central puts on the field will give defensive coordinators nightmares. But how quickly can the players around those skill guys develop? As it looks now, the Panthers figure to be in the Division I title mix once again.
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Defensive tackle/defensive end
Do you prefer defensive end or defensive tackle? More D-tackle because I just get to run at anybody, but I still have to follow my priorities gap-wise and everything. It's just fun getting in and (getting that) knocking people in the mouth kind of mentality; just hitting people as hard as you can. I'd like to try D-end this year because I've gotten a lot quicker from 10th grade when I played offense. Even from this last season, I've gotten a lot faster.
What did you do to get quicker? After the season, even during the season, I did a lot of agility work with a lot of people. Even now, I do a lot of stuff with some of the football guys. During our down time we do a lot of agility stuff, even at practice. While we are in our little groups doing stretches we kind of do our own agility work that I came up with. Just so we can get our D-lineman quicker and a little more agile.
What do you love the most about football? The rush on a Friday night. I don't really feel it until I step on the field. Or go out for pregame warmups ... Just getting out there under the lights and playing under the lights. All the fans in the stands, you can hear them. Everything going on at once; it's a lot of fun for me.
What is your most embarrassing sports moment? The West York game. Like the first five plays of the game I jumped off the ball on the snap because I was nervous. It was the first penalty of the year for anyone, and I just felt like an idiot. As soon as it happened, I just coached myself the rest of the way through the game. The whole way through the season I didn't jump anymore.
Biggest inspiration? Probably my stepdad (Brian Reever) because he got me into football. I used to play for West York back in boys club in fourth or fifth grade. Then I ended up quitting, unfortunately, because I didn't like the running. He got me back into it. My ninth grade year, it was the West York game because my brothers were still playing for boys club. I was sitting there and saw all the Central York guys walking into the stadium, and he tapped me on the shoulder and said, 'That is what you could be doing this year,' and it just hit me.
Who has the best nickname on the team? Probably Nate Trona. We all just call him TroneDog on the field.
|8/31||West York||7 p.m.|
|9/7||Cumberland Valley||7 p.m.|
|9/14||at Hempfield||7 p.m.|
|9/21||at Susquehannock||7 p.m.|
|10/5||at Spring Grove||7 p.m.|
|10/12||South Western||7 p.m.|
|10/19||at Dallastown||10 a.m.|
|10/26||at Red Lion||7 p.m.|
|11/2||William Penn||7 p.m.|