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Panthers must control football against Wayne

CHESAPEAKE – Let’s play keep away.

Thursday, August 30, 2001

CHESAPEAKE – Let’s play keep away. Ball control will be the key when the Chesapeake Panthers host the Wayne Pioneers Friday.

Wayne, the Class AA state runners-up in West Virginia last year, rely on a ball control offense led by senior fullback Robert Pratt 5-10, 200) and halfback Adam Clay (6-0, 200).

"The key is we can’t let them keep the ball for a quarter at a time," Panthers coach Phil Davis said. "If we do, we could be in trouble. And when we get the ball, we have to take advantage of our opportunities. We match up okay, but they just grind, grind, grind."

But stopping the Wayne offense isn’t that easy. Besides Pratt and Clay, senior quarterback Ryan Wellman (5-8, 155) and halfback Chris Coleman (5-10, 18) give the Pioneers plenty of weapons to choose from.

"Their backfield is more mature and they run hard. They have decent kids and they’re experienced. They got to play 14 games last year," said Davis. "Clay moved to the backfield from guard. They’ve got several guys back (on the line). And the big (Jeremy) Claiborne (6-3, 235) kid at tackle is pretty good."

Wayne opened last season with a 55-16 shellacking of Shelby Valley. Chesapeake lost 48-7 to Portsmouth, the Ohio Division III poll champions and state semifinalists last season.

Davis doesn’t think there is a lot of extra pressure, but he admits the Panthers can ill afford another early season loss.

"There is a sense of urgency, but it’s a long season," said Davis. "Last year we were 8-2 and didn’t get in the playoffs. We’ve got several teams on our schedule who are going to win a bunch of games and weed to win some of those.

"The other part of the game is that we need to step up and play better. We’re playing people that you can play good and still get beat. We didn’t play that good last Friday."

Despite the feeling of urgency, Davis said the Panthers remain loose and confident.

"Our guys are looking at this game and we played them tough last year," said Davis. "The kids have been working hard. None of then like the idea, the outcome, and the way it occurred. But Wayne is going to be tough. It’s just going to be a different game."