The best is yet to come. At least, that's what West High football coach Randy Schreiter hopes.
Though the Panthers' 2005 season was dismal at 1-9 and 0-7 in difficult Region 6, several younger players got experience, said Schreiter. "It felt good at the end of the year with what they accomplished."
Unfortunately for West, those underclassmen played because others were injured. West's win in the opener over Woods Cross cost the Panthers injuries to its three senior captains. Cody Bytheway was lost for half the season, while Jeff Lyon was out for two games. Balin Cruz, who's had surgery on both knees, missed three games.
Schreiter is convinced underclassmen are the Panthers' future. He says "five to seven" sophomores played with the varsity in 2005 because some seniors weren't contributing enough to the team. He also noted several sophomores started for the varsity and also played with the jayvees, who had a 5-4 season.
The sophomore team, which won about half of its games, beat then-undefeated Highland in the last game of the year.
West is modeling its speed program after that of the Rams, said the coach, which means testing skill level in the weight room and doing "explosive exercises."
Returning sophomores to bank on, according to Schreiter, include kick-and-punt return specialist and tailback Garret Nicholson, "who is one of the best." He had three returns for touchdowns and, in addition to rushing and receiving yards, is West's 2005 total all-purpose yardage leader.
No doubt his experience with last year's 4 x 100m region championship track relay team helped. Wide receiver Marshall Armstrong, who was lost for the season during the Panthers' game at East, was their "best receiver," said Schreiter.
Other sophomores he said to look to are offensive lineman Charles Latu and former kicker Scott Floisand, now competing at the quarterback spot.
Jamel Smith, who just finished his junior year as the two-time starting QB, will return to "a lot of competition" to keep it, the coach said.
Meanwhile, Jeff Sanders, also a junior, "became a great kicker" and will return.
On paper, West's fortunes, including numbers of players, seem to have improved. But Schreiter doesn't concede anything, maintaining, "We've got a lot of work to do."