The Suburbanite
  • BURNING QUESTIONS: Manchester seeks new signal caller

  • A large question mark stands at the top of the quarterback depth chart for the Manchester Panthers.

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  • A large question mark stands at the top of the quarterback depth chart for the Manchester Panthers.
    Head coach Jim France enters his 42nd season at the helm with a tremendous degree of uncertainty under center. Three-year starter Nick Peyakov graduated and will suit up for Mount Union this fall. Because Peyakov maintained such a stronghold on the position, there is no experienced backup to step in.
    The most likely option is senior Chandler Stahl, who shifted to tight end last season so the coaching staff could get him on the field.
    “With Chandler Stahl, he’s a very good athlete and he became a very good tight end,” France said. “There really is no one else we have in mind (at quarterback) right now. We’re not putting any pressure on whoever is our quarterback because they will have big shoes to fill.”
    Even if Stahl returns to quarterback, there is not much depth behind him. Sophomore Mason Nist, who was expected to push for playing time, broke his jaw playing baseball in late July and is not expected to play this season. Several other players who may have been contenders for the backup spot elected not to play this year, leaving France and his coaching staff with more questions than answers on offense.
    The spread offense the Panthers have run the past few seasons may be the first casualty of the developing quarterback situation. Peyakov afforded France certain luxuries in play-calling. Having an inexperienced quarterback means the running game must step up and carry more of the load.
    It’s a challenge the 70-year-old head coach believes his ball carriers can handle.
    “As coaches, we have to pattern what we do after the players. Like we did with Peyakov’s abilities, we need to structure around our new guys,” France said. “I would say there is a very good chance that we will have a more run-heavy offense and we have four or five kids who could run the ball pretty well.”
    Seniors John Beavers and Austin Klein and junior Sterling Jackson will form the core of the running back rotation. France said all three are relatively equal in terms of skill and athleticism. They will be the focal point of what the veteran coach called “tough guy football” – the sort of smash-mouth style that has become less common with Peyakov leading the offense.
    With two guards and one tackle to replace on the offensive line, pass protection and run blocking could both be issues for the Panthers. The shifting roster, along with decreasing numbers that France believes will top out in the mid-40s, makes Manchester an enigma entering the season
    Two areas that are not in flux are the coaching staff and the work ethic that has been a defining characteristic of the program under France.
    Page 2 of 2 - Virtually all of France’s staff has been together for at least 15 years. That continuity has produced consistency on the field, along with a hard-working mentality that fits a small community such as Manchester.
    “I’m most impressed with the kids’ work ethic and great attitudes,” France added. “I’m looking forward to working with the kids and as much time as they put in in the weight room, you couldn’t ask any more of them.”
    France’s energy and enthusiasm for coaching remain high and despite the question marks facing his team, he points back to a favorite saying among successful high school coaches: “Tradition never graduates.”
    Reach Andy at 330-899-2872 or andy.harris@TheSuburbanite.com.
    On Twitter: @aharrisBURB