GENEVA, Ala. (WDHN) — In the City of Two Rivers the Geneva Panthers are hoping to make it to the playoffs for the third year in a row.
Seventh-year Head Coach Les Sanders says the team has had a much better spring and summer than last year because they aren’t having to work around COVID-19 protocols.
Schedule changes and missing practices made for a challenging 2020 season for the Panthers who ended the season with four wins and seven losses.
“We never could get any traction and a lot of people went through that,” Sanders said. “I never thought in my career I’d have to forfeit a game, especially a region game because of something we didn’t do wrong, but that’s a testament to our kids who would make the playoffs. I think we’ve grown from that. I think the appreciation is there so if something does go wrong we can handle it much better. I know I can.”
The Panthers are coming off of back-to-back years in the playoffs, something they haven’t done since the 2006 and 2007 seasons.
Last year Geneva moved up to Class 4A, putting them in the challenging Class 4A Region Two.
Sanders schedules tough non-region opponents so that the Panthers put up a fight in their region games.
“Our schedule is rough. I mean it’s tough. Our non-region games I put up with anybody, but we need to play those games because our 4A region is so tough and you could go out and probably schedule some smaller schools or something like that, but we need to see those teams, we need to see those type players to get ready for our region games.”
Ahead of fall camp he’s reminding his team the season may get off to a rough start, but if they keep pushing, he believes, they’ll see success.
“We’ve got to hang in there and keep getting better. That’s the message that with our schedule things may not go well early, but we’re going to get better every week. We took a tough beating last year week zero and came back the next week and beat a great Slocomb team, that went nine and one, in week two because we learn from that we got better.”
So far Sanders likes what he sees this summer.
Attendance, work ethic, and team chemistry will be key for the Panthers this fall.
“Our older guys help our younger guys and I think in case times get tough, if you don’t have that things can go south in a hurry, but that’s what I really like about our team is our togetherness.”
The Panthers will kick off their season hosting Opp at Hugh Owen stadium on August 20.