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Panthers face off with Pioneers tonight
Panthers vs. Leavenworth preview - photo by Travis Hendryx

The long awaited rematch between Great Bend and Leavenworth has finally arrived.

After two weeks of fall camp and a pair of intrasquad scrimmages the Panthers will go full force tonight as they look to turn the tables following a 19-0 shutout loss to the Pioneers in the 2014 season opener.

In that game Leavenworth scored all 19 of their points over the first three quarters of play and led 9-0 at the half following a safety in the second period.

For the Panthers, coach Tony Crough is anxious to have his team face an actual opponent following two weeks of preseason preparation.

“We’re a little sick of practicing and going through drills,” Crough said Thursday. “We’ve had some really good practices and then there have been some where we start off dragging a little I think because we’re just sick of hitting each other. We’re excited about Leavenworth and we’re ready to play.”

The Pioneers will bring a couple of big men to the plate but Crough says the Panthers will need to contain Leavenworth’s speed and agility.

“They have a few big guys but I don’t think they’re nearly as big as what we’ve been hearing. They have one big kid on the offensive line who weighs about 255 and two or three on the defensive front that go between 245 and 275. They are fast and quick but we have some speed and quickness of our own.”

Defensively, look for the Pioneers to adjust their linebacker corps.

“They start out in a 4-3 look but will shift into a 4-2 when we go to our spread attack,” Crough said. “They try to take away the run first and then pressure you to throw the football which they did a really good job against us last year and every other team they played.”

Overall Crough said injuries have been minimal following fall camp as the team kept focus following two scrimmages.

“We’re healthy and we’ve been able to stay hungry and intense through two weeks of camp,” the coach said.

“Competition wise we have a few defensive linemen who are still working their way into a spot up front. Like I said last week, out offense looked as good during our last scrimmage as they have all of preseason.”

Following the two scrimmages Crough said it’s still difficult to get any kind of register on overall performance.

“It’s hard to gauge things objectively during intrasquads,” said Crough. “You never really can get a grasp on some things when all you’ve played against is yourself. You never really know until you play someone else.”

If Great Bend has any liabilities heading into tonight’s contest, Crough said, it’s lack of depth.

“Youth and inexperience,” he said. “Anytime you get a bunch of young guys who haven’t played a lot of varsity football it will always be a matter of concern. You always wonder how they’ll respond during their first round of competition.”

The Pioneers finished 2014 a game above .500 at 6-5. Following the win over Great Bend, Leavenworth dropped a pair of games to Lawrence (21-14) and Olathe Northwest (15-6). The Pioneers rebounded with a 35-21 victory at Lawrence Free State before another two-game skid against Olathe North (38-22) and Shawnee Mission East (41-17).

Leavenworth was victorious in their final three regular season games and defeated Topeka Seaman, 35-6 in the first round of post season play. The Pioneers bowed out of the playoffs with a 27-7 setback to St. Thomas Aquinas.