MOST teams losing three receivers that accounted for 89.4 percent of its total receiving yardage last year wouldn’t be talking about being more prolific in the passing game this season.
That scenario, however, isn’t out of the question for Jackson County with an all-state quarterback at the controls and a corps of talented, yet untested, receivers.
“I think our offense is going to have a lot more explosiveness, a lot more big-play capability,” said quarterback Jacob Lewis who earned All-Class AAA honorable mention honors last year. “We should be able to put up the same, if not more points this year hopefully.”
The Panthers lost a trio of talented receiving targets off last year’s squad — all-state receiver Xavier Harper (1,164 yards, 17 touchdowns), Layson Giles (752 yards, five touchdowns) and Ben Brissey (414 yards, three touchdowns).
In their place, the Panthers will look to athletic receivers like Antonio Strickland (who played defense last year), Adrian Parsons and Caleb Smith — who transferred in from Sandy Creek — to replace that firepower. Chase Wester, a Jefferson transfer, is another receiver the Panthers are counting on when he returns from a shoulder injury.
Coach Benji Harrison said this team still has guys on the perimeter that can make plays.
“They look pretty good, and we may be a little more athletic in some areas,” Harrison said. “I’m excited about them.”
Even though these receivers may be new as far as the starting lineup, Lewis has a long history with several of them.
“Antonio and Chase, I grew up playing with them,” he said. “I played my seventh and eighth grade years with them. Caleb is the only new guy really. Me and him, as soon as he got here, we’ve just been on the same page clicking ever since.”
Lewis said he has known Parsons for about a decade.
“We’ve played since we were eight years old,” Lewis said. “We’ve always had a relationship. We’ve always been great friends.”
In assessing his new receivers, Harrison said Strickland and Caleb Smith “are both pretty athletic.”
“You want to get the ball in their hands because of what they can do after the catch,” he said. “Both of them catch the ball extremely well, and the big thing they do is after they catch it, I think they can do something with it. Both are physical. They will block.”
Harrison also expects big things out of Parsons, who is actually the leading returning receiver with 68 yards in 2013.
“He needs to have a year like we expect him to have,” he said. “He’s played good, but he can play really well. So I expect good things out of him.”
All these receivers have the luxury of one of Class AAA’s best quarterbacks distributing the ball.
Last year, Lewis torched opposing defenses for 2,579 yards passing with 27 touchdowns against only seven interceptions. He was also the Panthers’ second leading rusher in 2013 with 463 yards.
Harrison said his offense is blessed with an extremely talented quarterback.
“I think he’s what you look for in a quarterback,” Harrison said. “I think he’s the most underrated quarterback in the area — maybe around the whole state. I think he’s a really good player who could go play college football.”
Jackson County will find out soon enough how good it can be offensively, opening the season Aug. 29 at home against Madison County.
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