Sports Preview: Panthers looking to stop competitors in their tracks

Each journey begins with a single step and for the Maxwell Panthers, that journey is well underway. Practice began earlier this month for the varsity boys football team when Friday night lights returns to Maxwell’s home field for the season opener Aug. 30 against Esparto.

The Cascade Valley-League, Division V standings from 2018 left Maxwell with a 5-6 season record standing and 3-5 in league. The Panthers sit among a tough set of teams in their league, such as the 2018 league winners Fall River, and rival schools Biggs, Modoc, and Chester. With just a varsity team, the 22-person Maxwell roster will welcome back several starters, including seniors Christian Cabrera, Trent Hendrix, Raul Reynoso, Zach Pitzner, and Ulises Melescio.

“Cabrera will be one to watch this year. He has stepped up his game and has become a leader on the field,” said Head Coach Russ Jones. “Melescio has put in a lot of hard work this off season to become a better football player.”

Jones, now in his seventh year of coaching for the Panthers varsity, is assisted by Zach Urrutia and Dylan Jones. As the season opener approaches, position placement on the field will be vital for the Panthers this season. One position already determined is that of the quarterback, where Hendrix returns after throwing 1,226 yards and 14 touchdown passes in the 2018 season.

“Trent just works,” Jones said. “He comes out to practice at 100 percent and surpasses a level of dedication to this team.”

Defense will be the name of the game for Maxwell, as the Panthers focus on stopping yardage accumulation from their competitors. As with any team, even more so for the Panthers, fielding one team with freshmen through seniors, Jones will focus on opportunities out of the backfield to improve on last season’s 2, 010 total yardage. On defense, Cabrera will lead the charge as a strong core for the team.

On offense, Maxwell will need to be in game shape to be able to keep up for four quarters and use their speed the way they would like. Maxwell’s offensive line will be led by seniors Melesio and Reynoso.

“Practices have been sweat through and our team is working well together,” said Pitzner. “I look forward to a successful season with my teammates for my last year on the team.”

Maxwell will utilize a 4-4 defense with several players pulling double line duty with tackles on defense along with their offensive duties.

“We will be competitors this season if what I am seeing on the practice field converts to real game-time play,” said Dylan Jones. ■