High School Football

Carolina Forest Panthers hope change is good

Carolina Forest had to call a last-second audible.

But it was a move that coach Drew Hummel and the Panthers believe they had to make.

Quarterback Robert Gray, the tall and talented lefty who started the majority of the team's games in 2009, left the program on July 15. It immediately thrust Hummel's team into the hands of junior Danny Daly.

"We had a long talk about the middle of July, and we kind of decided the best situation for [Gray] to do was to pursue baseball," Hummel said. "His situation was that he really couldn't fully commit himself to the cause, and we talked about commitment and what it takes to be in that situation. ... We're not going play a quarterback that's not going to have the respect and do the things that we need to do for the team."

Insert Daly, a different kind of signal-caller who automatically turns the Panthers into a different type of team. Whereas Gray - standing at 6 foot, 5 inches - was pass-first, Daly has more ability to run the ball.

That might have been the route the Panthers were going to take anyway.

Carolina Forest will also enter this season without the services of receiver Ronnie Moses, the team's biggest offensive threat from a year ago. Moses now plays for Coastal Carolina.

And while the team is not completely devoid of quality receivers - two others caught at least 40 passes last year - the offense will revolve around senior scat back Mark Timmons and sophomore bruiser Harold Atkinson.

Add in Daly's running and the Panthers' strength is clear.

"You can look at it one of two ways: Glass half-full or half-empty," Hummel said. "We feel good about what Danny Daly can bring, his athleticism and his toughness to the game that will compensate."

Hummel also said there is some strength in numbers, and more importantly, experience in numbers. He said this has been the best offseason in his five years at the school.

It was a credit to attrition for all those players who are finally upperclassmen.

"We've had to play so many guys the last two years before they should have been thrown into the mix that in some occasions, you were just overmatched in some situations," Hummel said. "They were having to play before they were physically ready to play."