Playoffs? That’s what most Panther fans have been talking about for the past few weeks but the Panthers do not have the easiest road to get there. Here’s a closer look at just what the Panthers are doing right, what they need to improve on and just how difficult the road to the playoffs may be.
“We were going for the win against Rockford but that was only a small goal compared to the big one and that’s to make the playoffs for the third year in a row and we are on the right track to do that,” Sr. Linebacker Seth Mika said.
The Panthers Varsity Football team has experienced their fair share of success so far this year, but with the season winding down to the final three games the Panthers still have a bit of work to do. The Panthers are currently sitting at 4-2, along with conference rivals Grandville and Rockford. With only three games left, each team will need to win two games in order to make the playoffs.
This week’s matchup versus Grand Haven will be a turning point in the season for both teams, Grand Haven is one loss away from essentially being eliminated from playoff contention and a win this week would put the Panthers in a great position heading forward. The Panthers have been flying under the radar so far and if they can knock off the OK-Red leading Grand Haven Buccaneers Friday night they’ll be able to regain some of the momentum they lost at Rockford. Many teams would cringe if they found out they had to win two of their next three games to make the playoffs but not the Panthers, “I think it puts our team in a good situation, now we know we have no choice but to play every single game our hardest,” Sr. Kicker Bryan Holmes said.
The Panthers also understand that they’ll need to improve on several aspects of their game if they are to make the playoffs. “Our running game needs to improve. We all need to do our assignments better and block harder,” Mika said. The Panthers will definitely have to develop the running game in order to complement their stellar passing attack- perhaps the best we’ve seen from the Panthers in recent memory. The Panthers will also need to improve on their run defense, Hudsonville and East Grand Rapids were able to create some running lanes for their big backs which had a huge impact on each game. The Panthers will need to penetrate the offensive line and fill the gaps better if they are to put together a run at the end of the year.
The Panthers do have several things going for them, their aerial attack has been phenomenal thus far, their pass defense has been very good at times, and they have some young players that are playing really well this year. “We’ve had two players really step up, (sophomores) Christian Rodino and Mason Dekker. Christian is one heck of a runner who isn’t afraid to lower his shoulder and Dekker reads the offense well and puts the hurtin’ on the guys,” Mika said.
Holmes feels that the Panthers will finally hit their stride in the next few weeks, “I think that these are the games where our team as a whole will click and we will be performing to our potential,” Holmes said. Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain, the Panthers need to win two of their next three games.
All eyes will be on the Panthers the next few weeks as many people did not expect the Panthers to perform very well this year, so far they’ve proved the doubters wrong, but the next few weeks will determine how the 2012 West Ottawa Varsity Football team will be remembered.