PELL CITY -- Pell City head coach Wayne Lee said his team had some productive days during spring football practice.
Lee, who is entering his second season at the Panthers’ helm, said he had an opportunity to see many new faces in new places. Pell City has the tough task of replacing 12 seniors from last year’s team.
“We wanted to look at different kids at different spots,” Lee said. “We looked at some young kids.
“A lot the guys that are coming back have been playing for two years, so we feel pretty good about them. We know what they can and can’t do.”
The Panthers ended the spring with a 19-14 win over Parker in a jamboree game. Lee said the experience of playing Parker will help Pell City’s defense when it is time to face the Panthers’ region opponents.
“They had a lot of speed and decent size over there,” Lee said. “On the second or third play of the game, we threw an interception, and they ran it down to the 4- or 5-yard line.
“We had to put the defense on the field in a bad situation. They came up big and knocked them back to the 30-yard line, and they don't score.
“The defense from that point on played very well. We gave up a score right before halftime that was more of a defensive call … than anything else. If it wasn't a spring game, that call probably wouldn't have been made. We were up 19-7 and we started playing the young guys.”
The spring also exposed some things Lee and the Panthers must fix offensively going into the fall.
“We put three scores on the board, but we had opportunities to score more,” Lee said. “We just didn't finish drives.
“It was some things here and there that we didn't do that we have to get cleaned up on offense. If we get those things fixed, we have a chance to be pretty decent.”
Not finishing drives hurt the Panthers in 2018, when they averaged 14.6 points per game.
Having quarterback Mitchell Gossett back with a year of experience under his belt should benefit the Panthers.
Kelton Seals also impressed the Pell City coaching staff this spring. He will see time at quarterback as well as other positions all over the field.
Seals is one of the skills players Lee and the Panthers will depend on to make big plays for an offense that lacked firepower last season.
“We will play several people at running back,” Lee said. “Kelton Seals will play running back. David Keith did a really good job in the spring. Andrew Williams and Matthew Frey also see time at running back.
“The majority of the receivers are back, and some of the young ones had a really good spring, especially Kentrell Burton. That’s a name that you will probably hear a lot of this year. He is a sophomore that can really run.”
Defensively, Pell City has an experienced group returning, especially on the back end. Lee expects the secondary to be a team strength in 2019.
“We lost several people up front,” Lee said. “We had some new names up there, and they did a good job in the spring.
“A majority of the linebackers have played. Now they will have to play more, but they have all be in some game situations, so that's a good thing.
“The secondary is all back except one (player), so that is good. … You could tell that was the older, more experienced group in the spring.”
The Panthers finished 4-6 last fall and missed the playoffs. Lee said the team’s shortcomings really pushed the returning players to work harder in the offseason.
“They have played and been through the wars,” Lee said. “They have done a good up of stepping up and filling leadership roles, working hard and getting young guys to buy in.
“If you are going to be successful, you are going to have to work, and they did a good job. We are ahead of the game from where we were last year at this point.”