Published: Aug 02, 2006 08:43 AM
Modified: Aug 03, 2006 11:10 AM
Focus on teaching as Panther Creek emerges
First year focus is learning the basics
Click here to watch an audio slideshow of the Catamounts' first day of mini-campEvery dynasty has to start somewhere. For coach Gary Merrill and the newly formed Panther Creek High football team that place is West Cary Middle, where the team held its first mini-camp last week. Merrill, the former head coach at powerhouse Northern Durham High, is focused on teaching this year and is bringing his new program along slowly. I tell them were taking baby steps, Merrill said. Right now were not even taking baby steps, were just crawling, were not even walking yet. So lets get to walking, then we can get to jogging, then we can get to running. By that time we might be a good football team.Fall practices officially opened on Monday throughout Wake County, including Apex High, Athens Drive High, Cary High, Green Hope High, Holly Springs High and Middle Creek High.With just freshmen and sophomores at Panther Creek this year, Merrill and his staff will only form a junior varsity squad this year. That means that his team has a year to learn as much as it can before making the jump to varsity. The coaches have used this opportunity to be diligent and not skip any detail.Weve been working on how to play, Merrill said. We havent worked on many schemes yet. I want to teach them the basic fundamentals of each position. I want them to understand the position that theyre playing and on defense their basic alignments, stance, keys and reads.Merrill and his staff are in the process of trying to get to know their players and figure out what kind of team they have. At Northern Durham, Merrills squads featured some of the finest and best conditioned athletes in the state, including N.C. State senior defensive back A.J. Davis. At this point, Merrill isnt sure what kind of talent hes dealing with at Panther Creek. Ill have to see when they get the pads on because everybody looks good in light gear, Merrill said. Right now Im very happy with the type of kids we have. Im happy with the skill that Ive seen out here, Im happy with the linemen Ive seen out here so far.While rain kept Merrills Catamounts off the field for part of their first week, Merrill is satisfied with his teams progress. Weve had a great week, weve got some great kids here, Merrill said. We did really well for being out for really just two days. We got a lot accomplished in two days. Further hampering the Catamounts training efforts has been the lack of team facilities. The Panther Creek campus and weight room are unavailable to the team until the building is cleared for occupancy. Merrill expects that to happen no sooner than Aug. 7. Thats why we want to get on campus because we need to get in the weight room, Merrill said. We have to develop physically. You can tell that right now.Despite the speed bumps of opening a new school, Merrill said that they cant let things like that get to them. There are some things that we cant control, Merrill said. Ive already learned that because were not on campus right now there are things out of my control and our control that we just cant worry about. That was a hard thing for me at first but I have accepted that now.With Merrills reputation and resume, high expectations are sure to follow him to Panther Creek. While Merrill isnt sure what his record might look like at the end of his first couple of seasons, he, too, has high hopes.I never predict wins and losses, never have as a coach, Merrill said. I just think this has a really good chance to be something good.
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