NEW FRANKLIN The Panthers were a stones throw away from making their first regional appearance in more than a decade (2007) a year ago, but were ousted in the district title game by Triway 69-68 in double overtime.
Fast forward to this season, Manchester (18-7) will looking to build on their success and contend for an elusive PAC-7 title, something that has eluded them since 2004.
"Our goal for the upcoming season is to contend for a league title and keep improving every day," stated veteran coach Gene Schindewolf, who will be searching for his 500th career win in the upcoming ledger.
Schindewolf, a 1971 Manchester graduate, and former College of Wooster standout, enters the campaign with a 492-336 record in 37 years, with 444 of those coming at his alma mater. He has won seven PAC-7 titles, two Wayne County League crowns, and has led his club to a pair of district championships.
When he reaches the 500 win plateau, he will be one of 43 coaches all-time in the state to do so and to put extra icing on the cake he'll become only the third in Summit County history to don the milestone, which includes the late Jack Greynolds (Barberton, Revere), 549 wins; and Bob Pasci (Twinsburg, Marion Harding, Trinity, Mayfield), 533.
Sizing up this year's unit, the Panthers will have a mixture of veterans, and some young but talented underclassmen.
Among the returnees are seniors Sam Hettich (post player), Cameron Adkins (forward), Spencer Bagwell (post), Tyler Young (guard) and junior Ethan Wright (guard).
Hettich led the group in scoring averaging seven points per outing, followed by Wright at 6.2 and Adkins at 3.3.
Wright is also a standout on the gridiron leading the Panthers to a regional final playoff berth rushing for more than 2,000 yards and 30 touchdowns. He is being recruited by some major Division I college programs for football.
"All of our returners are very hard working kids with awesome attitudes," praised Schindewolf. "They put tremendous work in during the summer in the weight room and the basketball court."
Promising newcomers expected to contribute right away include junior guard Ryan Wike, senior guard Logan Knoebel, senior forward Tim Morrison, senior post Nate Wile, freshman guard Trent Pappas and freshman guard Jordan Schindewolf.
Key losses from a year ago are JoJo France, Nick Beans and Van Wallbrown. The trio averaged more than 45 points a game.
France, who is playing collegiate at Pittsburgh-Greensburg, put his mark in the Panthers record books, finishing fourth all-time in scoring with 1,468 points. He also ranks first in 3-pointers made (215), fourth in assists (293), third in steals (151) and 15th in rebounding (310).
Beans is playing football at Notre Dame College in South Euclid.
"Those three (France, Beans, Wallbrown) were huge for our program over their four years playing varsity," said Schindewolf. "They worked hard for four years, took their lumps early on, but we're able to sty the course and have tremendous junior senior years."
Looking at this year's PAC-7 race, the league looks to be competitive on paper.
"It seems like ever team in the PAC have a lot of players returning, and the league will be very interesting to watch this winter," said Schindewolf. "We'll have a mesh of some new and younger players. We are really excited about our possibilities this winter."
Manchester is scheduled to open up it season on Nov. 30 at home against Canton South.
Assisting Schindewolf with the coaching duties this year are AJ Hite (varsity assistant), Josh Chadima (junior varsity), Jake Stahl (freshman), Tim Paul (eighth grade) and Brad Johnson (seventh grade).