Locklin back from injury (again) for Panthers
Franklin Regional High School lost 1,000-yard runner Dan McKenna to graduation, but with a little bit of luck, the Panthers might have a quality replacement.
Senior Sean Locklin hasn't had the best luck in the past two seasons. He broke his anterior cruciate ligament during his sophomore season after a couple of 100-yard games. Last season, Locklin broke his collarbone on his first carry of the year. After weeks of recovery, he returned to the field, only to break the collarbone again and suffer ligament damage in his knee on his first play back.
To change his luck this season, Locklin has switched uniform numbers. No, he wasn't wearing No. 13. He traded in No. 42 for No. 31. Coach Greg Botta hopes the switch brings Locklin better luck.
"He feels good, feels strong," Botta said after the first day of fall practice. "And he made it through the first offensive play of the preseason without an injury."
Locklin and junior Nate Freed will get most of the carries this season as the team tries to fill the shoes of McKenna, who rushed for 1,051 yards last year as the Panthers went 4-3 in their conference and 4-6 overall. Freed also suffered from injuries last year. He had surgery on his Achilles' tendon, but Botta said he has looked strong.
The Panthers plan on running the ball more in 2002, but that's not indicative of a poor passing attack. Chris Streett returns as the team's starting quarterback. The senior threw for more than 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. Senior Dane Morris will back him up. Botta expects even better offensive numbers for Street this season, especially with a veteran receiving corps.
"It was a great surprise to the coaching staff when he showed he could handle the duties of throwing the ball," Botta said. "He took it on the chin and got pummeled a few times, but he never left the game."
Senior receiver Myke McAfoose was one of the top receivers in Class AAAA last season after hauling in 37 passes for 531 yards and a touchdown. He will be joined by senior Billy Ross, junior Josh Kurz, who caught 19 balls last season, and junior Jake Yakovich.
"We've got skill and depth there," Botta said. "The key is what's up front. We don't have the size a lot of other teams do."
Lou Levine, Colin Haugh, Pete Ferry and Stu Young headline the offensive line. Botta said Levine could be a potential Division I prospect.
On defense, Botta is looking for big seasons out of senior inside linebacker J.D. Rice and Young, who will play defensive end. Like a lot of his teammates, Marc Delissio battled injuries last year, but is hoping for an injury-free 2002.
The Panthers were the only team in Quad-A to finish with a winning record in their section, but miss the playoffs. Botta believes a playoff spot is possible this year, as long as the players continue to improve and injuries are avoided.
"I'm optimistic we can try to get a playoff spot this year," Botta said. "Just getting to the playoffs would be a feather in the players' caps."