Countdown to kickoff: Fort Worth Paschal Panthers

Posted Friday, Aug. 08, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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Fort Worth Paschal Panthers

District 4-6A

Coach: Matt Cook

Last season: 5-5, 2-5 District 3-5A, missed the playoffs

Key Players: QB Dylan Thomas (6-2, 190), RB Kelly Darrough (5-6, 140), DB Chris Padron (5-11, 185), DE Ben Fanning (6-3, 210), WR Hunter Williamson (5-10, 170), OT Raj Dhillon (6-3.5, 290), OT Juan Galvan (6-5, 277), C Drake Denison (6-1, 220).

The big picture: Paschal made a quantum leap last season, finishing with a .500 record after the Panthers had not won a district game in the three previous seasons. Paschal was 2-5 in district last year, and the good news is that their district has not gotten any tougher with realignment. The bad news is it hasn’t gotten any easier, either. And four Arlington teams — Arlington, Bowie, Lamar and Martin — have claimed the top four spots in the district since 2009. Coach Matt Cook said the key to breaking into the top four for a playoff berth in District 4-6A comes down to a couple of things. “The first thing is you have to have the players to match up with those guys,” Cook said. “We feel like we have caught up there, definitely. You also have to be stronger on the O-line and D-line later in the year, which is where we have really worked hard, and you have to stay healthy.” The Panthers received a huge shot in the arm with the emergence of Dylan Thomas (147 of 269 passing, 1,832 yds, 17 TDs, 853 yards rushing, 11 TD) in 2013. Paschal also returns four of five starting offensive linemen, which is probably the team’s strongest unit. With Kelly Darrough (37-287, 4 TD, 4.3 speed) running behind Juan Galvan and Raj Dhillon, the Panthers should have a well-rounded offensive attack. Defensively, Ben Fanning (seven sacks, 47 tackles) should lead the way, and Chris Padron (two punt returns for TDs, 4 interceptions) has proved to be a double threat. Paschal returns five offensive and five defensive starters, as well as 26 lettermen.

Quotable: “Our mentality has to be different this year. Our mentality is everything. On Friday nights, everyone is going to be bigger than us, but our heart is going to set us apart from everyone else in the district and make us victorious.” — Center Drake Denison

“The support around the school has been the key. We have kids who have not traditionally played, and now they are begging to play. The numbers is what’s nice, but now what we’re seeing is that kids want to come to Paschal. … We had a lot of kids moving out of Fort Worth, and now they are staying here.” — Coach Matt Cook

Notable: Before last season, the last time Paschal finished the year with a .500 record or better was in 1999.

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