The Elder Panthers lost in the state championship for Division-I last season, but don't expect the Panthers to stop there. They return several of the top players from that state runner-up team and are expecting to make another postseason run.
The Panthers are going to have to prove it again this year though. They are ranked third in QueenCityHigh's Preseason Top 10, and teams like Colerain and Moeller are eager to avenge last year's losses to the Panthers. With a few division-I prospects on the roster, the Panthers will be in the spotlight all season. The exposure will be great if they start strong but can they handle the pressure if they falter early against a very tough opening three weeks?
2008 RECORD: 13-2; 3-0 (GCL South)
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COACHING: Coach Doug Ramsey returns for his 14th season with Elder and hopes to add a third state championship to his resume. He continually graduates division-I players from his program and seems to always have his team playing their best at playoff time.
Ramsey has the benefit of having studs returning at all the skill positions on offense, which should allow him to be aggressive with his play-calling.
OFFENSE: The Panthers should have no trouble scoring points this season. They return one of the top quarterbacks in the area in Mark Miller, a top running back in the GCL in Adam Brown, and two good receivers in Tim O'Conner and tight end Alex Welch.
Miller threw for 3,331 yards while completing 66.7% of his passes last season. The signal-caller passed for 31 scores and only nine interceptions. The Panther's leader's only downfall last season was that he fumbled the ball eight times. Don't expect for his production to fall off because of the loss of last season's primary target Josh Jones. Elder has plenty of capable options for the strong armed quarterback.
One of those offensive options that will take some pressure off Miller and the passing game is Brown. He returns for his senior campaign after rushing for over 1100 yards as a junior. The 5-foot-8 running back racked up 13 touchdowns on the ground and also proved to be a weapon catching passes out of the backfield as well where he averaged 11 yards per catch.
The Panther's do lose one of the best receivers in the area from last season in Josh Jones, who is playing on a scholarship at Cincinnati.
Despite not getting the exposure of Jones last season, O'Conner quietly had a 1,000-yard season of his own. The wideout hauled in 70 passes for 1,004 yards and 13 touchdowns. Expect him to be the go-to guy for Miller.
Welch, who has committed to Notre Dame, also was a factor in the passing game. He pulled in 16 balls for 237 yards and four scores.
The offense will have to answer some questions on the offensive line after losing everybody off of last year's squad. If it takes the line too long to gel the Panther's could be in trouble with the strong defenses they will face early in the season.
DEFENSE: After a rocky start giving up 35 points to St. Thomas Aquinas (FL) last year, the Panther's defense rallied to end up having a solid year. The Elder defense has reason to believe that they will be solid again this season.
Despite graduating some talent off of last year's team, the Panthers return a fair amount and have some young talent ready to step up.
Jake Fishburn is primed for a big year in the secondary coming off of a season where he had three interceptions and was one of the leading tacklers on the team. He'll be joined by a solid linebacker core which will be led by David Peters and Corey Mason. Also expect big things out of the big guys up front, with Steve Newman and Pete Bachman leading the way.
08/29 East St. Louis Senior HS
09/18 at La Salle
09/26 at St. Edward H.S.
10/02 at St. Xavier
10/16 Cols. DeSales
10/30 Western Hills
FINAL TAKE: The Panthers have the talent to be among the top teams in the area once again. Right now they are in the top three and will have to prove themselves as the best. However, you never count out a Doug Ramsey coached team especially when playoff time comes around.