PERRY -- The Perry Panthers had a stretch not too long ago when they made the playoffs five straight years, but lately the fortunes of the team have not been positive, and they are coming off a one-win season.
Carl Dixon, who has been at Perry as a defensive assistant coach, replaces Erik Soliday as the head coach and will try and lead Perry back to respectability.
“I have enjoyed being an assistant, but I am very happy to get a chance at a school I love to be the head coach,” said Dixon, who never has been a head coach at the varsity level. “Perry is my home, and I love it here, and all the kids here want is what the kids in most of the surrounding communities have. You look at Northside, Warner Robins, Peach County and Houston County, just to name a few, and they have found ways to be successful on the football field. I don’t think there is any reason to believe that we can’t do the same.
“These kids haven’t had a bad practice since January, and they work hard every day, and right now, we are just trying to get them to believe in themselves and believe that we can win football games.”
It was evident the seniors have bought into Dixon’s enthusiasm.
“The unity of this team is much better than last year,” said Jamir Johnson, who will play defensive back and wide receiver. “From my standpoint, winning one game last year was just unacceptable, and we have all worked hard in the offseason to make this season much better. We all are in this fight together, and a lot of it is because of Coach Dixon and the coaching staff.”
Fellow senior J.K. Lane agrees.
“Everyone is on the same page, and everyone is focused on turning things around,” said Lane, who will play defensive back and get the chance to play running back after a three-year wait. “We all know that people are talking about us and how bad we will be, but none of us believe any of that. We are hyped to start the season and prove a lot of people wrong.”
Chris Stewart, who split time at quarterback a year ago, will have the position all to himself this year.
“Last year, I was kind of a change-of-pace guy, but I can do more than just run with the football,” Stewart said. “Our mindset heading into the season is very good, and we feel like we will be much improved. I know as a senior and the quarterback, it is my job to keep the team together, and none of us mind being the underdog. We really believe that we are going to sneak up on some people.”
ABOUT THE PERRY PANTHERS
Head coach: Carl Dixon (first season as a head coach).
Assistant coaches: Tony Byram (offensive coordinator); Randy Moss (defensive coordinator); David Thrower (offensive line); Rishawn Scott (running backs); Frankie O’Neal (wide receivers); Seth Reber (defensive line/special teams); Tyler Rogers (defensive backs); Reggie West (defensive backs); Evan Jones (freshmen).
Offensive scheme: Hybrid wing.
Defensive scheme: 4-2-5.
2014 record: 1-9.
Region: GHSA 2-AAAA.
Returning starters: Two on offense; four on defense.
Players to watch: J.K. Lane (Sr., DB/RB); Jamir Johnson (Sr., DB/WR); Chris Stewart (Sr., QB/DB); Damion Bagley (Jr., DB/QB/WR); Anfernee Roberson (Jr., DE/TE); Jay Watkins (Soph., RB/DB/WR); Jhi’ Marre Brown (Jr., WR/DB); Ashton Strange (Sr., OL/DL).
Aug. 21 Monroe-Albany
Sept. 4 at Peach County
Sept. 11 at Macon County
Sept. 18 Brooks County
Sept. 25 at Mary Persons
Oct. 2 Howard
Oct. 9 at Upson-Lee
Oct. 16 Veterans
Oct. 23 at Baldwin
Oct. 30 West Laurens