Needs a big season from: Offensive, defensive lines
It's no secret that successful football starts with winning battles in the trenches, and that's precisely where the focus is for Bradenton Christian as the Panthers break camp.
BCS has a huge weapon in Sinclair Laskett (842 rushing yards, 9 yards a carry) and Joey Giardina enters his second season at quarterback, but those players are only vital if the line does its job in creating time for the skill guys.
But that doesn't mean the Panthers don't have some seasoned players up front. They do with senior Doug Pace (6-foot, 200 pounds), junior Trent Christman (6-3, 235 pounds) and junior Brett Hiskes (6-2, 180 pounds) providing the leadership and knowledge for head coach Allan Gerber's offensive system.
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"We're returning four starters," Pace said. "We're going to be pretty good on the line."
But like most small schools, those three will have double-duty. It's an "Iron Man" brand of football, playing both sides of the ball.
"We actually added some linemen this year, so it helps that we actually have subs to switch in and out," Hiskes said.
Also aiding the guys up front is the extra work put in during the summer months to get stronger.
"It's really showing off on the practice field, and I think it'll eventually show off in the games," Christman said.
Impact newcomer: Paul Smith, junior, fullback/linebacker
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Smith, a transfer from Manatee, and adds some muscle to a linebacking unit that was missing a few elements in the tackling department during last fall's 4-6 season.
Smith enters a crucial partnership with senior Lance Perkins, who has contributed to Smith's learning curve thus far.
"He's a big kid," Gerber said. "He looks the part and plays very physically."
Deep at: Offensive and defensive lines
The Panthers are relying on the line to give the club a huge season as they bid for the program's first playoff appearance. The depth is sure to help in that department. The front is two-deep across, which spells good things for Gerber should anyone need a breather or if an injury hits the unit.
Thin at: Wide receiver
Laskett's move from a slot receiver to shouldering most of the load as a running back last season, in addition to the Panthers losing their top two receivers to graduation, hit the unit hard. The only three BCS pass cathers on this year's club combined for five receptions in 2012, so the lack of experience is cause for concern.
7-3, playoff berth
The schedule isn't favorable with only two district home games, but BCS is ready to take that next step with the dangerous and speedy Laskett handling the rock to pair with a maturing Giardina. The depth on the offensive and defensive lines is pivotal to this season. Another key is powerhouse St. Pete Admiral Farragut is no longer a part of this district, so the Panthers should contend for one of the two playoff berths.
Allan Gerber, sixth season, 28-21
By the numbers:
352 -- Average yards per game allowed by the defense last season
1 -- Victories in the second half of 2012
.368 -- Gerber's combined winning percentage the past two seasons
Aug. 30 at Out-of-Door Academy
Sept. 6 TAMPA CAMBRIDGE*^
Sept. 13 at North Port Imagine School
Sept. 20 at St. Pete Canterbury*
Sept. 27 CLEARWATER CALVARY CHR.^
Oct. 4 LARGO INDIAN ROCKS CHR.*^
Oct. 11 at St. Pete Northside Chr.*
Oct. 18 at Tampa Carrollwood Day*%
Oct. 25 FORT MYERS CANTERBURY
Nov. 1 at St. Pete Keswick Chr.*^
Games at 7 p.m., unless noted
HOME GAMES IN ALL CAPS
*-Class 2A-District 5
Key game: Sept. 13 at North Port Imagine School
It's not often a non-district game is the key one on the schedule, but the Panthers' homecoming game last fall against North Port Imagine School was as a heartbreaking 40-38 defeat and sent the club on a four-game losing streak that ended hopes of securing the program's first postseason berth. Revenge will be on the Panthers' minds this season, and a victory is needed to keep possible momentum gained from early district games.
2012 results: 4-6, 3-4 2A(urban)-5
at Lakeland Christian L, 48-7
ST. PETE NORTHSIDE CHR. W, 33-10
at Tampa Cambridge W, 20-6
at Largo Indian Rocks Chr. L, 20-13
ST. PETE CANTERBURY W, 28-14
NORTH PORT IMAGINE SCHOOL L, 40-38
TAMPA CARROLLWOOD DAY L, 56-35
ST. PETE ADMIRAL FARRAGUT L, 63-24
at Clearwater Calvary Chr. L, 48-28
at St. Pete Keswick Chr. W, 26-7