GREENVILLE, Ill.--Coming off the first post-season victory in the program’s history, a 28-27 overtime Victory Bowl thriller, the Panthers look to take the next stepin maximizing their potential.
A new era begins as former offensive coordinator, Robbie Schomaker, takes control of the program. Since he joined the Greenville staff in 2010, the Panthers have experienced an explosion of offense. He hopes to take that same innovative style that pushed the Panthers to new heights offensively, to his role as head coach.
The Panthers were on the brink of the playoffs in 2012 after reeling off seven straight victories to finish in a three-way tie for the UMAC Championship. However, the tiebreaker required the names of all three champions be placed into a box and drawn at random. After losing out on the random draw, the Panthers were selected to participate in the Victory Bowl for the 2nd year in a row and for a 3rd time in the last 4 years. Unlike the previous 3 times Greenville has been in the NCCAA Victory Bowl, the Panthers were victorious securing the programs first post season win ever. Coming off an incredible season the 2013 Panthers face high expectation.
“We understand that with success comes expectations,” Coach Schomaker explained, “We can either crumble under the pressure of those expectations or like champions rise above and thrive off of them.” He went on to say, “We have dealt with high expectations all three seasons I have been here. We were picked to win the conference in the preseason polls of 2010, 2011 and 2012.” Schomaker finished by saying, “We are building champions here at Greenville College not just on the football field but as championship level men. We hold ourselves to a standard greater than excellence, we desire perfection.
The Greenville Defense comes into the 2013 season with high expectations coming off a season that saw improvement in every game.
A young defense struggled early on in 2012 but as young players began to understand their roles, the unit improved immensely. Most of the 2012 group returns and will be led by new Defensive Coordinator Trent Laune. Senior captains, Cody Lopez and Bryce Wright will anchor the Defense. Cody comes off an injury riddled 2012 in which he missed multiple games but still finished second on the team in tackles. After playing running back his first two seasons Bryce Wright made the move to safety in 2012 and had a breakout year in which he was named first team all-conference. Both guys look to stay healthy in 2013 and build upon their success. The front seven made life difficult for opponents’ run games in 2012 and along with Lopez most of them return. Isaac Barber will anchor the defensive line in 2013 as he led the group in tackles for loss last year. The linebackers are as deep and talented as any in the UMAC. Alongside Cody, Robert Deering led the team in tackles from the outside linebacker position. Jacob Bronars returns after a season in which he led the team in sacks and tackles for a loss as well. The front seven will be key in stopping the run and getting after opponents’quarterbacks. The secondary features the Defense’s only returning all-conference performer in Bryce Wright. Along with senior Anthony Moore, Bryce will need to lead a talented but young group of cover men. Their hope is to continue improving on a pass defense that struggled early in 2012 but came on late being very instrumental in securing both a conference championship and a post-season victory.
Coach Laune said of the defense, “I am excited about the talent and experience that returns. We are going to continue to move towards maximizing our potential on defense. We will work hard to build on the success of last year’s squad and most importantly learn from our mistakes. I am excited about the opportunity to work with such a talented group of guys.”
For a second straight year, the Panther offense comes off a season in which it topped that conference in points per game and total yards. The offense has always been predicated on a great ability to run the football. After finishing in the top 10 in the country rushing the football for the third straight year, the Panthers must replace 2 all-conference offensive linemen as well as last year’s UMAC Offensive player of the year. The good news for the offense is quarterback Brendan Chambers returns for his senior season. Coming off two straight years as an all-conference performer, he will need some help from wide receiver Shawn McKnight and tight end Nathan Butler. Along with these two playmakers, most of the Panthers’ top pass catchers return, giving Chambers multiple targets to attack defenses with in 2013. The Offensive Line must recover from the loss of two dynamic leaders. The group, however, is filled with experience, talent, and leadership. All five prospective starters have experience in the starting lineup including sophomore center Nick Cisneros, the anchor of the group, who was named second team all-conference as a freshman in 2012. Two Seniors occupy the tackle position in Ethan White and Jesse Tyrell, both of whom started games in 2012. Finally, Hunter Rone and Joe Schoepf, who were entrenched in a position battle last year, will now both begin the season as starters. Once again the offensive line looks to be the heart and soul of the GC offense.
Looking at the team, offensive coordinator Andrew Rode said, “We have a lot of great players to replace but the core group of players is intact for us to continue the success this program has been built around,” he continued on to say, “New guys will have to step up and our Seniors will have to perform at an even higher level. I believe in the guys we have and we will continue to find creative ways to get our best players the football.”