PREVIEW: Panthers hope to continue momentum

The Monticello varsity football team, first row from left: Harrison Eastburn, Christian Nieto, Cade Folken, Tyler Luensman, Colin Jordan, Spencer Avery, Mason Reuter and ballboy Wyatt Wilson. Second row: assistant coaches Nate Freeze and Jon Kyte, Juan Perez, Kaleb Rigby, Jon Mootz, Brody Brokaw, Gavin Cooper, Tony Wallerich, Chase Luensman, Devin Kraus, Ben Oswald and assistant coach Greg Williams. Third row: assistant coach Dustin Chapman, Luke Weber, Justin Recker, Jeff Carlson, Tyler Blattner, Hunter Kramer, Wade Picray, Lake Stahlberg, Dallas Bowser, Reid Barnhart, Brayden Cleeton, head coach Wes Wilson and assistant coach Donnie Kremer. (Photo by Pete Temple)
Pete Temple
Express Sports Editor

     When the Monticello Panthers scored 29 second half points to secure a 35-14 victory over Waterloo Columbus last October, it enabled the Panthers to finish the 2017 season with a winning record, 5-4.

     This year’s squad is hoping to keep that momentum going into the 2018 campaign.

     Third-year head coach Wes Wilson said he likes what he has seen in practice so far this season.

     “We have a bunch of great kids that like to play together,” Wilson said. “We want to improve every day. If we can do that, the rest will take care of itself.”

     The team has 12 returning letter-winners, including three who earned all-district honors a year ago.

     That trio includes Gavin Cooper, a senior wide receiver/defensive back who caught 27 passes for 657 yards and five touchdowns last year; senior running back/linebacker Lake Stahlberg, who led the team in tackles last season with 58; and senior offensive and defensive lineman Jon Mootz.

     Also back are senior linemen Wade Picray, Hunter Kramer and Kaleb Rigby; senior wide receiver/defensive back Tony Wallerich, senior running backs/linebackers Brody Brokaw and Dallas Bowser; senior quarterback/defensive back Chase Luensman; senior tight end/linebacker Harrison Eastburn; and junior wide receiver/defensive back Devin Kraus.

     Coach Wilson acknowledges that despite the large number of returning letter-winners, and the fact 50 boys went out for the team, the varsity experience is limited.

     “Our inexperience is something we are concerned about,” Wilson said. “The more reps we get, the better we will get.”

     Monticello hopes to be competitive in a district that includes defending state 2A champion Waukon, North Fayette Valley and Anamosa.

     “They look to be very good this year,” the coach said of those three opponents.

     Seven of the teams on last year’s schedule are on the 2018 slate, and the Panthers went 4-3 in those games.

     Wilson is assisted by Jon Kyte (defensive coordinator), Nathan Freeze (defensive line) and Dustin Chapman (special teams). The junior varsity coaches are Greg Williams (defense) and Donnie Kremer (offense).



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