By Justin Sampson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The infant stages of any program are full of milestones. Forsyth is beyond crawling around and cooing at opponents.
The Panthers earned four wins in 2017, their first season of varsity football, and now have even more incentive going forward as they enter their inaugural season of Mid-Lakes Conference and district play.
“I’m glad they finally have the chance to play for a championship and I think we’ll have some kids that’ll be eligible for honors at the end of the year,” said head coach Tommie Anderson.
Age will not be a problem for Forsyth as Anderson expects to have 20-25 seniors come out. This class is ingrained in Forsyth football as the group that helped get things off the ground.
“A lot of them have been with us since the beginning. There are several kids that I got to coach in junior high when we started the program. This will be their sixth year with us.”
The Panthers should have their highest numbers yet and the allure of district titles and postseason awards should only improve that. A consistent schedule should do the same. There are only two holdovers from the 2017 slate: Pierce City and Lighthouse Christian.
Greenfield has been added to the 2018 schedule along with a full list of traditional Mid-Lakes powers including Fair Grove, Strafford, and Skyline.
“This is the third consecutive year where we don’t have much carryover,” said Anderson. “I think that’s held us back a bit because we haven’t been able to establish a rivalry with anybody.”
The graduations of Miciah Roca and Anthony Stanford left big gaps at skill positions, but Anderson believes there could be up to eight possible suitors to start at receiver. Senior Darrien Woods, the tallest returning target at 6’0”, has already solidified his job. He led the Panthers with 23 catches and 216 yards with a pair of touchdowns last year.
He also posted a team-high three interceptions at safety.
Senior Dawson Deroo also returns at quarterback after taking the reins midway through 2017. He threw for 1695 yards, completing 121 of 213 attempts with 14 touchdowns.
Anderson has been impressed with his field vision both under center and on the sideline.
“He got hurt Week 8 and we had him in the box on the sideline. What he was telling me on the headset that he saw… it was everything I needed to hear. That showed we were really on the same page.”
Johnny Mayhew will also return for his senior year at running back/linebacker. He was one of the most effective defenders that Forsyth claimed in 2017 as he tallied 64 tackles, recovered three fumbles, an interception, and notched one defensive score.
Offensively, he dashed for 422 yards with seven touchdowns.
Senior Zach Reding will be the veteran leader of the defensive line at 6’1” and 280 pounds. Sophomore Jordan Boe could also have a breakout season in the trenches after showing flashes as a freshman and over the summer.
If Forsyth gets the numbers that Anderson expects, he believes 2018 will be where the Panthers start to truly form their identity as a program and potential rival.
“We’re thin at some important positions,” he said. “If we get everyone that we need out, I think we’ll have a very good team. We have a tough schedule, but we’ll be much more competitive.”