Pigskin Preview 2022 – Panthers must rely on their running game

Published 9:03 am Friday, September 2, 2022

CHESAPEAKE — The late, great Chesapeake Panthers’ coach Phil Davis used to remind people that football was invented as a running game.

TV executives and the powers that be have seen otherwise as they have loosened up the rules for an “anything goes that helps the offense” mentality.

But teams still have to run the ball to be effective and many teams run the ball extensively and have great success.

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The Panthers will be running the ball yet again as personnel dictates and head coach Todd Knipp knows his team’s chances for success lie in the running game.

“We’re going to run the ball. We’re going to have to control the ball, avoid turnovers and stay on rhythm,” said Knipp. “We need to slow teams down on defense.”


Heading up a stable of running backs is three-year starting fullback Marcus Burnside (5-7, 225) whose size and power make him a formidable threat.

The halfbacks will have senior Aaron Ross (6-0, 180) and sophomore Curtis Brandenburg (5-10, 175) while the wingbacks are senior Ryan Martin (6-0, 145), junior Camron Shockley (5-7, 125) and senior Jacob Spears (5-9, 150).

Brandenburg will be the backup to Burnside.

“We’re going to run them in and out and keep them fresh. All of them have different skill sets that we can use,” said Knipp. “Marcus has trimmed down. He broke his leg two years ago and not being able to put any weight on it really hurt him. He’s had a good, full year in  the weight room.”


The quarterback position may become a two-headed monster as a pair of sophomores battle for control of the reins.

Jacob Harris (6-0, 160) is the leader in the clubhouse but Drew Plantz (5-5 115) is making some noise.

“Harris is coming into his own. He had a good summer and worked hard in the weight room and being a quarterback. Plantz is pushing. He does a good job running the offense,” said Knipp. “They’re both great kids who work hard.”


The center will be sophomore Garrett Napier (5-10, 240). The right guard is Spencer Wright (5-11, 205) who will also be the backup at center.

Senior Julian Pennington (5-8, 140) will be a backup at guard. The left guard is junior Will Schwamberger (6-1, 190).

Junior Alex Plummer (6-1, 220) is penciled in as the right tackle with junior Andrew Ellis (6-4, 285) on the left side. Ellis is the largest offensive lineman for the Panthers.

Both Garrett Napier and senior Jake Napier (6-0, 220) will be backups at tackle.

Knipp said the offensive linemen have a lot of potential.

“They’re coming along. The group works well together and they’re getting off the ball and picking up our system,” said Knipp.


Senior Trevon Ferguson (6-0, 225), junior Jonathan Brammer (5-9, 170) and senior Nick Wright (6-0, 185) are all in the tight end rotation. Wright played some center but suffered an injury.

“All those guys are learning guard as well and will backup there,” said Knipp.


Juniors Dannie Maynard (5-8, 125) and Mason Giles (5-8, 125) will be the wide receiver. Spears could also figure into the equation.

“They both have good hands and their route running is improving every day. They’re starting to come into their own as receivers,” said Knipp.


Knipp said there are several players who will move around and share duties on the defensive front.

Feguson and Nick Wright are the top candidates at end but Spencer Wright and Schwamberger will be in the picture as well.

Jared Napier and sophomore Chris Calderon (6-0, 275) are the leaders at the tackle positions but will have Pennington, Schwamberger and Spencer Wright as backups.

“We’ll run a lot of players out there,” said Knipp. “Any guy who isn’t playing end will work in there.”


Burnside anchors the defense as he returns once again and his running mate will be Brandenburg. The backup will be Brammer.

On the outside will be Ross and Martin with Giles serving backup duty for both of them.


Maynard and Shockley will be the cornerbacks with Harris and Plantz the backups.

Giles will be the starter at safety with Harris and Plantz.

“We’re starting to run to the football. Every day we’re getting better at coverage. They’re really stating jell as a unit,” said Knipp.


Spears will handle the placements and will share the punting duties with Brandenburg.


Knipp pointed toward Ironton to again be the favorite in the league race. He said the rest of the conference is a toss-up.

“Ironton is the pick to win the league. They should be pretty good,” said Knipp. “The rest of the league should be pretty competitive. Everyone has pretty good coaches and good talent. Anybody can knock off anybody on any given week.”