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Maxwell mixing it up more
When a team's star quarterback and the majority of the offensive line graduate it would be easy to panic, but the Maxwell High football team isn't too worried.
Their biggest concern is the tough schedule they face. Most of the teams have improved since last season, according to coach Robert Wilson.
Despite the brutal strength of schedule, the Panthers don't expect to let up after going 28-8 during the last three seasons.
The players who moved up from the junior varsity team filled most of the holes on the line and senior Blake Vierra brings a different style of quarterback into the Panthers' spread offense.
"We're going to be pretty versatile, we're going to mix it up more than in the past," Wilson said.
While Vierra lacks the speed and arm of George Barajas, who led the team with 1,248 yards and eight touchdowns through the air and 1,175 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground, he brings a different set of skills to the position.
"He's very crafty, he breaks tackles and reads blocks," Wilson said.
Last season Vierra ran for 522 yards and 12 touchdowns and caught a team-high 24 passes for 282 yards and a touchdown.
Vierra played quarterback in youth football and spent the last two years as Barajas' primary receiver, so he is confident he can make the transition behind center.
"It helps me a lot because I know the routes and I don't have to think about where the receivers are going to be," Vierra said.
Perhaps the greatest reason for Vierra's confidence in the transition to quarterback is the weapons he has around him.
Running back Eddie Rangel played a back-up role last season but took over the starting job for four games when an injury took out starter Luis Rolon.
He finished with 467 yards and two touchdowns while averaging more than eight yards a carry. Rangel added 219 yards and three touchdowns receiving.
Seniors Santiago Gonzalez and Bryce Perry combined for 35 receptions for 588 yards and two touchdowns last season. Junior Brian Berg will play slot receiver after leading the junior varsity team in rushing, touchdowns and tackles.
Perhaps the biggest wild card for the Panthers is Zach Troughton, who moved from offensive line to tight end, proving Vierra with a towering target in the red zone.
"I get to help out the line and block a lot, and I have good hands," Troughton said. "I'm excited I get to make plays on offense and hopefully score some touchdowns."
Troughton was a quarterback in peewees and basketball has helped with his agility and hands, so having the ball in his hands comes naturally, he said.
The line will be anchored by senior AJ Rolon, who has high expectations for the new linemen surrounding him because they bring more mobility to the line than last season.
Junior Drex Minto is showing potential as center. Senior Jake LaGrande, senior Tony Rolon and sophomore Favian Rolon are promising linemen.
"We have good size and height but we're not as big as last year," Rolon said.
Defensively, AJ Rolon and Rangel return at linebacker and the secondary of Vierra, Berg, Gonzalez and Perry shore up a fast and experienced secondary.
"It's pretty much our defense from last year," AJ Rolon said. "It makes it easier, you just know that you have people you can rely on."
Junior Isasis Martinez gives the Panthers a strong leg on kickoffs and field goals. He is one of the fastest and most athletic players on the team. Wilson will use him as a back-up receiver and in the secondary.
Scott Wells is competing for one of the linebacker jobs and will factor into the team's running game. Junior Laine LaGrande will see time at wide receiver and linebacker.
CONTACT Kirk Barron at 458-2121 or email@example.com