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August 20, 2013

High school football season preview: Riverton Parke seeks to quickly put slide in past

Wabash River Conference

MECCA — Riverton Parke’s Panthers are not acting anything like a team that’s on a 23-game losing streak.

Even though he still hasn’t tasted victory — there should be a pretty big Gatorade bath when he does — third-year head coach Jason Wilborn remains relentlessly positive.

Instead of hanging their heads over their fate, Panther players are showing up in greater numbers than before — approximately 30 on this year’s roster, a 50-percent increase over the start of last season. And last season — which was winless, obviously — the team kept getting bigger, numbers-wise, as the year went along.

The Panthers probably won’t be favored many times this season either, since both the Wabash River Conference and their sectional are loaded with Class A powers. But …

“You just keep plugging away, trusting your players,” Wilborn said with a smile when asked about his team’s future.

 “We have a motto: ‘Every day, every play, be remembered [in a positive way].’ ”

Despite that losing streak, there are some things the Panthers can legitimately be positive about.

Although the senior class isn’t a big one, it includes two strong team leaders in two-way lineman Nick Schmidt (6-foot-3, 265) and running back/linebacker Matt Marion (5-10, 180).

Junior quarterback Tanner Edge is back for his third season as a starter, and has grown into the position both mentally and — just as important — physically: he’s now 6-2 and 175 pounds.

Another junior, Johnny Myers (6-0, 160) is also a seasoned veteran at wide receiver and defensive back, and first-year senior player Daniel Organ (6-2, 225) has proven to be a find at defensive end.

And while Schmidt is the unquestioned leader of the line, the Panthers are not lacking for prospects for the other positions up front. Most Class A teams don’t have size available like Riverton Parke does in seniors Georg Brock (6-2, 230), Brandon Kresge (5-9, 280) and Travis Price (5-11, 280) and juniors Bryce Barnes (6-3, 255), Logan Blacketer (5-10, 215), Jameson Fox (5-11, 230), Tanner Gilbert (5-9, 205) and newcomer Mark Swander (5-10, 250).

“We have a large junior class, and our freshmen [who will gradually be worked into varsity reserve roles] are outstanding as well,” Wilborn said. “That gives us something to build on, and we’re looking for leadership from our seniors.”

When the first victory comes, it ought to set off quite a celebration.

“We have a nice corps of kids who have committed to the program,” Wilborn said. “This is the most excitement about football since I’ve been here.”

Riverton Parke opens with a home game Friday against Attica.


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