STORY BY GRANT LEDGISTER | PHOTO BY RUSSELL VANNOZZI
FRA will look to improve from the middle of the road campaign that they had in 2018. The Panthers went 8-5 last season, losing to BGA in the semifinals of the DII-AA playoffs.
It wasn’t a total loss, as FRA did have some impressive wins, namely a 40-point shutout against Donelson Christian.
Bill Whittemore will be FRA’s head coach for his eighth season.
Because most of FRA’s roster plays both sides of the ball, the team will see most of its primary corps on both offense and defense return, losing 13 total players to graduation.
It will be the lat year of high school play for quarterback Sean Casey. In 2018, Casey completed 81 passes for 1106 yards and 11 touchdowns and was the third ranked quarterback by YPG in the division.
Also rejoining the team on the offensive side of the ball is senior Kingston Gardner, who was a solid third wide receiver behind Riley Speed and Lance Wilhoite. Gardner will look to take on a larger role in the receiving group with Speed and Wilhoite both graduates.
Notable returning players on defense include senior Jacob Jackson (LB), who racked up a total 81 tackles (the most in the division) and two sacks in 2018, and Sam Taylor (SS), who recorded 36 tackles.
An important dual-threat for FRA is sophomore RB/OLB Jeffrey Vercher, who was second in carries for the Panthers, amassing 443 yards and 4 TDs on 75 carries to go along with 57 tackles in 2018. FRA will look to Vercher for its rushing attack and as one of the main leaders on its defense.
On special teams, kicker Jack Norris comes back to FRA for his third year, one year after going 7/10 on field goal kicks, with the longest being 47 yards.
Other than Speed and Wilhoite, significant losses include Brogan Wilson, who had over 1100 yards rushing, as well as MLB Jack Arsta and DL Tymon Mitchell, both of whom had 50+ tackles for the Panthers in their senior seasons.
In 2019, the Panthers start with an away game at Davidson Academy, then begin a three-game home stand against Stratford, region opponent Lipscomb Academy and St. George’s.
They’re at Donelson Academy, home against RePublic, and away against two division opponents in Goodpasture Christian and BGA before finishing the regular season at home against South Gibson and CPA.