High expectations: Black Panthers try to build on 2019 success
The Mirror will preview a high school football team each day until Aug. 22. For a complete rundown of all of the teams in the region, pick up a copy of “Blitz” at area newsstands.
Today: Northern Bedford
Northern Bedford put together a solid year in 2019 with plenty of moments that nearly defined its season.
The Black Panthers nearly knocked off Inter-County Conference champion Bellwood-Antis and then seemed completely in control in their District 5 Class 1A championship game against Tussey Mountain before the Titans rallied to win.
Most of the players from that team return this year, and they want to finish their business this time around.
“We want to get back to the championship and win it this time,” Northern Bedford senior quarterback Thad Leidy said. “It’s nice having so many weapons, and I just want to make sure I can get the ball to them and take advantage of our speed.”
Dalton Smith, who ran for nearly 1,400 yards last year and caught 21 passes, will be one of those weapons.
“Our line will have to play well,” Smith said. “We have a lot of team speed, but we’ll need them to give us room. Our offense can be pretty good. I just hope we get the chance to play and show how good we can be.”
Ironically, it was a huge play from Tussey Mountain sprinter Tyler Rhodes that started the downfall for Northern Bedford in the championship game last year. Rhodes caught a short pass and took it 80 yards for a score in Tussey’s eventual 28-23 triumph.
“That left a bad taste in our mouth,” Black said. “We had a 10-0 lead with about 30 seconds left in the third quarter, and I think if we get out of that quarter without that 80-yard touchdown pass that they scored, I feel like we would have been the District 5 champions. But that’s not the way things played out. It’s a goal for us every year to compete for that, and I think that loss with so many kids back, has been a driving force. Kids have shown up, worked hard and done the things they need to do to prepare themselves for another run at that opportunity.”
This year, Tussey will be without Rhodes and fellow sprinter Jarred Sipes. Black thinks he has those types of players with that kind of ability this year.
“Our ability to be explosive and score from any situation is maybe as good as it has been since I have been here,” Black said. “There are a lot of kids who are track kids, and that kind of speed is something you can’t coach. You are either fast or you aren’t. We have Dalton Smith, who can fly. Cadin Ebersole is one of the fastest kids in the area along with Brady Clark. Evan Clouse is fast. We have some younger guys coming up in our program that are fast, and I think Thad Leidy is going to surprise some people at quarterback. He’s worked really hard to develop his strength and speed, and I think he’s a lot better athlete than he was a year ago. He already had the brains and the arm, and now he’s going to be able to run for us too. That’s going to make us hard to stop.”
Still, Black knows simply having the weapons to succeed doesn’t guarantee it.
“Potential doesn’t mean anything if you don’t achieve what your goals are,” Black said. “We want to be the best team we can be, and that starts by getting better every single day. We have had situations before where our potential was realized, and we have had other times where potential was attached to our names that we didn’t live up to. It’s one of those things that you can have a great season, and it becomes a negative thing when you have that word. We just want to get better every single week and take every week for what it is, especially this year. Right now, everything seems so day-to-day that you aren’t guaranteed next week.”