Panthers’ numbers problem has Clancy crossing fingers
NETHER PROVIDENCE >> Take a quick scan of Strath Haven’s roster and one thing becomes abundantly clear: With only 38 available players, the Panthers are a little short on numbers.
That’s nothing new, though, for head coach Kevin Clancy or his team. The Panthers have struggled with a numbers crunch for a few years so the players have learned the importance of being versatile and adaptable.
A perfect example is Ryan Morris. He played guard and linebacker as a junior. The plan was to keep him at linebacker on defense, but move him to tight end on offense. And Morris was fine with it.
“In our offense it’s more of a blocking tight end anyway,” Morris said. “We don’t throw the ball too much, so it’s blocking on the outside instead of in the trenches. So it’s not too much of a change. You use your hands more in the second level with the linebackers and I don’t pull as much, but that’s really about it.”
That plan, though, did not last long. By the fourth day of training camp Morris was back at guard.
“I’ll be wearing (No.) 55 again,” Morris said as he warmed up.
“We need him at guard,” Clancy said with a shrug.
As someone once said, “Games change and rules change, good players adapt.” That goes for coaches, too.
With 294 career victories, Clancy is the winningest coach in Delaware County history for a reason. He’s been able to change on the fly during his 36-year head coaching career, the last 27 of which have come at Strath Haven. Clancy put together a plan for his team in the offseason and then had to change it once he saw his personnel.
“Today at practice, we went from four down linemen on defense to three down linemen,” Clancy said. “I want the offensive linemen, as much as possible, to not have to play defense, so I added another linebacker on the field today.”
Strath Haven 2017 Schedule
Clancy changed on the fly and because of situations like that, the players have learned to become flexible, too.
“If you can play multiple positions in this offense or defense it helps the team,” two-way lineman Lee Holbert said. “We’ve needed to be that way for the last three years that we’ve been here, so we’re used to it.”
Morris (6-2, 206), Holbert (6-3, 290) and cornerback/wide receiver Tommy Foster (5-9, 142) are three of the veterans Clancy will be counting on this season. All three earned second-team All-Central League honors a year ago, Holbert on offense and Morris and Foster on defense, while leading the Panthers to a 4-7 record and a spot in the District 1 Class 5A playoffs. Foster is a deep threat. He caught 25 passes for 505 yards and four touchdowns last season.
There will be a new face running the Wing-T attack on offense. Junior Jake Fisher, a key member of the defense a year ago, takes over at quarterback. Ideally, Clancy said he would like to have Fisher run the ball about 10 times a game, but that’s probably not going to happen. Fellow junior Brady Mutz suffered a concussion while playing baseball and is out for the season. That leaves the Panthers thin in the depth department at QB.
Senior Sean Daly will see time at running back and strong safety. Junior Ethan Belville will play fullback and linebacker. Juniors Ryan Krouse and Luke Healy will be among the mainstays on the offensive line and will also see time at end and linebacker, respectively, on defense.
“The key for us is to stay healthy,” Clancy said. “If I can put my whole team on the field, we’ll be OK. But if I get a couple of guys nicked we’re into JV guys pretty quick. We feel good about the team and we feel good about the kids. We have a tough opener. We play Interboro. They’re always a bear, so we’ll know more about how good we are about 9 o’clock that night.”
By Terry Toohey; firstname.lastname@example.org
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