The Derby Panthers won the 6A State Championship, their first since 1994, behind an experienced group of grinders and playmakers. The 2014 team will look much different.
"We've probably got about 7 or 8 guys that played on the freshman team last year that are going to have to step up on Friday night so it's going to be a big change," said Derby head coach Brandon Clark.
"We're trying to create that atmosphere in practice and try to speed up the game for them."
The Panthers lose loads of talent to graduation, most notably DeAndre Goolsby, now at the University of Florida. Clark will only have 2 starters returning from the championship squad, defensive end Chase Branstetter and linebacker Dan Conner.
But there is experience in the running form of junior Garrett Xanders, who filled in for an injured Tyler West last season and Derby adds senior Curtis Whitten from Wichita Heights, who suffered a leg injury in the season opener at Bishop Carroll that never allowed him to hit his stride.
The Panthers open the 2014 season at Maize.