By Perry Bell Sports Editor
The Journal Express
---- — Optimism runs high for the start of the 2013 varsity football season in Knoxville.
The Panthers are coming off a year when the squad was 4-5 overall and 2-4 in the district.
Knoxville was in contention for a playoff spot entering the final week of the season.
Panther wins in 2012 within the district were over Chariton and Norwalk.
Class 3A District 8 football was claimed by the Winterset Huskies, who slipped past the Pella High Little Dutch for the crown in 2012.
The district was extremally close a year ago. Knoxville led the Huskies until the final minute of play and lost to them 23-21 in 2012.
Knoxville played well against the Pella Little Dutch before falling late 14-13.
Oskaloosa slipped past Knoxville in the final game of the 2012 season 19-13.
Panther head coach Troy Rider looks for coach Jay McKinstrey’s Pella High Dutch to be the team to beat this fall.
“I think we will be competitive every week. If we play well we have a shot at making the playoffs,” Rider said.
High hopes start with the return of 17 letter winners from a year ago.
Included in that group are eight starters back for the black and gold.
Returning starters are Ross Shelford and Justin Karns as wide receivers. Both players are seniors on the KHS roster.
Other offensive threats back for Knoxville include starters Gerritt Davis at quarterback, Tanner Dunkin a junior at wide receiver/running back and offensive junior tackles, Jac Agan and Zayne Chapman.
Listed as defensive starters are Karns and Brandon Iddings at linebacker, Ryan Morgan at defensive tackle and Shelford at cornerback.
Rider said the strengths of the 2013 squad includes experience at the leadership positions of quarterback and linebackers, as well as depth at quarterback and a very mature group of seniors who display great leadership.
Areas of concern to open the fall are the lack of depth at the wide receiver and defensive back positions and how young and unproven the team is in a lot of areas.
Coach Rider listed a few of the top players who are missing from the 2012 KHS squad. The list includes Aaron Crossett, Joe Stearns, Ryan Douglas, Derek Glover, Dillon Becker, Colton Spaur and Reed Long.
Crossett was selected to play and represent the Knoxville Panthers in the North - South Shrine Football Game, played in late July.
Odds and Ends
Knoxville opens the season at home Friday, Aug. 30, when they host the PCM Mustangs in a non-district game kicking off at 7:30 p.m. at Ken Locke Stadium.