“The step we took last year from where Smiths Station had been was unbelievable really. It's even unbelievable for us as coaches … We’re excited to see if we can keep this thing going and improve on last year. Improvement on last year means we make the playoffs. When you finish three points out of the playoffs, the way to improve is to make them.”
- Mike Glisson, Smiths Station head coach
After several down years, the Smiths Station Panthers reemerged in 2018 as contenders in Region 2-7A. Now, the mission is to establish themselves as a perennial threat in one of Alabama’s most competitive regions.
One of the major driving forces for the Panthers in 2019 will be senior running back L.C. Harris. Harris emerged as one of the best local running backs last season, and his return promises big things for Smiths Station’s offense.
“L.C.'s a workman. He comes to work, and he carries the ball,” Smiths Station head coach Mike Glisson said. “He may gain a yard or two yards or three yards, or he may break one for 40. He gives you the same thing. He takes care of the football. He's an unselfish kid who wants to win. He's hard-nosed.
“He's not very big, and he takes a beating. He just keeps coming back.”
Harris will split carries with Derrick Jefferson and Iverson Jones in an effort to keep all three backs fresh through the regular season.
Quarterback Corey Minton returns after being the primary starter one year ago, but his job is not guaranteed this time around. Minton is accompanied by fellow junior Jacob Blackmon, whose athleticism and quick release has made the battle between the two become a neck-and-neck competition.
Glisson anticipates Logan Galloway, Ahmari Peabody, Ciannon Williams and Tucker Simmons to contribute at receiver. Mike Mellage, Edward Payne and Malik McMiller will be called on at tailback, and Trent Harris, Evan Sloan, Kobe Collins, Tristin Goble and Tony Bond will anchor the offensive line.
Glisson’s main concern with the revamped Panthers defense is at rover, the hybrid position of linebacker and safety. There’s an ongoing battle to fill the team’s two rovers, with Hunter Ryan, Dillon Stutzman and several young players in the mix for the jobs.
Strong run play is a staple in Smiths Station’s region, which makes the Panthers’ defensive line a key part of the squad. Glisson praised defensive lineman Christian Williams, adding he’s put on about 40 pounds from last season and has really filled out.
Alongside Williams, look for Dart Cardoza, Kyle Watson, Malek Harris and Carson Thomas to factor into the team’s plans.
Like Williams, linebacker Jordan Jones stands as an established part of the Panthers defense. Glisson called Jones — who already has offers from UAB and Troy — “the bell cow” at linebacker and someone whose special ability can translate to a big year.
Alongside Williams will be a combination of T.J. Morgan, Luke Hasty and Chris Beesley.
Cornerbacks Quintin Ashford and Jhameir Gore will lock down the corner positions, while Caleb Coleman returns at safety. Dylan Carden, Jayden Tarver and Cam Johnson will also factor into Glisson’s plans for the secondary.
“We've got a lot of kids right now who are battling for playing time,” Glisson said. “We're excited about that. That's a good problem to have.”