Countdown to kickoff: Keller Fossil Ridge Panthers

Posted Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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Keller Fossil Ridge

District 5-6A

Last Season: 9-4 (5-2 District 4-5A)

Key Players: LB Brice Hines (6-1, 225); RB Keshawn Mitchell (5-10, 200); FS Montrel Wilson (6-3, 205); SS Charlie Walker (6-1, 190); DE Roy Sutton III (6-2, 200); WR Cameron Castleberry (6-2, 195); WR/K Cody Seidel (6-2, 190).

The big picture: In most cases, an offense that loses its quarterback and top two receivers could expect to take a step back. But for Fossil Ridge, the remaining eight offensive starters from 2013 return to give the Panthers high hopes for their high-flying offense. Coach Tony Baccarini still maintains that quarterback is the “key to the whole deal,” but feels he has two capable candidates. Senior Gabe Monk, who served as the backup last season, and junior Bryce Baccarini will each see snaps unless one takes control of the position. They will be working behind a veteran offensive line that should provide ample time to find the Panthers’ talented receivers. Seniors Cameron Castleberry and Cody Seidel have played on Friday nights since they were sophomores, and each had more than 30 receptions last season. Running back Keshawn Mitchell will also rack up receptions out of the backfield. He had more than 1,000 all-purpose yards in 2013 and is a good blocker as well. A pair of talented sophomores who were varsity players last year will see the field in multiple-back formations. Defensively, the Panthers return only four starters, but all four had more than 90 tackles a year ago. Brice Hines was all-state honorable mention at linebacker with 167 tackles. Safety Montrel Wilson has committed to Baylor and packs a load at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds. Defensive end Roy Sutton is a three-year starter, and strong safety Charlie Walker turned down multiple offers to commit to play at Harvard. Baccarini admits he had concerns about the cornerback position, but thinks he’s found enough players to round out his secondary. Seidel is a top-notch kicker that gives the special teams a boost. After marching to the Division II regional semifinals in 2013, expectations are high again. But Baccarini knows the Panthers have their work cut out for them in the new District 5-6A. Six of the schools were playoff teams a year ago, including 4A Division I state champion Denton Guyer.

Quotable: “When you look at our offense, we’ve got a lot of people returning – a lot of good leaders, a lot of big guys up front. Our quarterbacks are both good, no matter who starts. I think both of them can take us where we need to go.” — receiver Cameron Castleberry

“Our expectations are always high ... We just take it one game at a time. We don’t even worry about the other teams in our district. It’s all about us and our teammates.” — linebacker Brice Hines

“That’s what is neat about this team — there are a lot of kids with 4.0 GPAs. They’re just a special bunch ... I’m not sure what makes them so close. I have a son in the senior class and a son in the junior class, and it’s just always been a very tight-knit group.” — coach Tony Baccarini

Notable: Last season, Cody Seidel produced scores four different ways: catching a pass, throwing a pass, kicking extra points (53) and kicking field goals (11).

— Shawn Smajstrla

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