Written By Joe Hubbs & Media by Austin Stephens
A season which began as an unexpected email at the beginning of summer weight training program is now underway. Nobody predicted Coach Ordell Walker’s resignation from the realms of the head coach position, and the regime changes the players and staff of the Greenville College football team would face. But as Coach Walker would say when a starting player goes down, “The next man up needs to man up!” Coach Robbie Schomaker did not back down from the challenge Coach Walker gave him with the mantle as the new head coach, and he, well… manned up.
Later in the summer, offensive line coach, Aaron Mingo, would also resign from his alma mater. Coach Schomaker carefully put together a new coaching staff, consisting of former Greenville quarterback, Joel Lira, and new defensive coordinator, Trent Laune. The new staff, with little time left, quickly established a plan for the upcoming season. After three grueling weeks of what has notoriously been dubbed boot camp, the Panthers felt well prepared for their first matchup against Millikin. In each of the past two years, Millikin butchered the Panthers, scoring 50 points in both contests. “Millikin is a tough team that has always outmatched us. Week one is going to be our toughest game of the year,” said Senior starting linebacker, Cody Lopez, before the game. A large, physical Millikin offensive line pushed the Panthers’ defense around like their little brothers last year. Admittedly, this is a problem for a team known for starting slow and finishing strong. Coach Laune’s brand new defense and some surprising new personnel helped to thwart the slow start this year, and challenge Millikin’s heavy front. “[The new defense] has proven to be really effective,” Lopez said, “I think it’s going to really benefit our team and help us get to that next level.” Along with the new scheme, a couple of players on the defensive line have really stood out since the beginning of camp. Nose tackles, freshman, Johnathan Roa, and junior transfer, Art Cordova, both have demonstrated tremendous explosiveness and aggression off the snap. Senior defensive end, Isaac Barber completes a defensive front stronger than any Greenville has put out in the last few years. “This is the best defensive line I have played with.” Lopez said enthusiastically.
The Panthers offense has undergone a few changes as well, but star quarterback Brendan Chambers returns for his final season in the orange and black. Chambers, who threw nine touchdown passes for 1309 yards, and rushed 788 yards for 15 touchdowns last season, remains the cornerstone of a solid Panthers offense that averaged 33 points per game a season ago. Although the Panthers lost two starting offensive linemen to graduation and leading rusher, Manny Gamble, to heart problems, they expect an exciting, fast-paced offense capable of repeating last year’s success. Despite all of the change, the Panthers didn’t lose a step on Saturday’s contest, as they beat Millikin 48-41. All afternoon the score was back and forth, as neither team could maintain the lead. Greenville struck first with a first quarter touchdown, run by Jacob Stull. Penalties and missed tackles allowed the Big Blue to come back with three unanswered touchdowns. Thanks to Chambers, the Panthers would not stay down long. The elusive quarterback rushed for two touchdowns and threw one touchdown pass to Shawn McKnight in the second quarter to put the Panthers back on top 28-21. In a streaky game going into the fourth quarter, Millikin missed an extra point that would have put the Big Blue up by one point, leaving the score tied at 41 with less than two minutes left to go. Proud of their fourth quarter prowess, the Panthers offense exploded for one more score. A huge touchdown pass from Chambers to McKnight with mere seconds left proved to be the game winner. A Panthers defense, lead by Cody Lopez’s 12 tackles, stonewalled any chance for a Millikin comeback, and Greenville finally bested Millikin to win the first game of the season. “I think we can win out our conference and get our first playoff appearance.” Lopez said confidently. And why not? With the best start the Panthers have had in two years, arguably beating their toughest opponent, it is not unlikely that the Panthers could go 9-1, or possibly undefeated this season.