“These guys are really motivated,” Teagle said. “They heard the things people said last year, how they said Paetow only won because they were in 5A. But we’re not dwelling on that, the guys are really maintaining the strong championship culture."
It’s a new era at Paetow.
This isn’t the same team that won a state championship last season. It’s a new team, with a new coach, a new classification and a new, tougher district to compete in. But that isn’t a deterrent to anyone that is part of the Panthers program, in fact, the team is embracing the change and the new challenge.
“It was important for me and for all of the coaches coming in to build on what the old coaching staff had done here,” said Paetow head coach Lonnie Teagle. “I didn’t want to come in here and tear everything down, there was a lot of good things going on at Paetow, so we just came in and remodeled. We didn’t just tear everything down and I think that’s a big reason why the kids have bought in to what we are doing. We talked to them about it and there was a lot of things that they had built here in the culture at Paetow that they wanted to keep. So we adapted a lot of that into our culture and then added some of our stuff and really it’s just made it a good mix.”
The Panthers are in a spot that they have never been in before. They come into this season as defending state champions, but also as underdogs as newcomer in Class 6A and facing a new district full of tough Katy ISD teams that Paetow will have to adjust to.
Gone are some of the big pieces from their championship core, including three-year starting quarterback CJ Dumas and a number of skill position players.
But, Paetow is in the unique situation where a second wave of talent that has followed their graduating 2022 class and there is still a core that could make lots of noise that the program brings back.
Defensively, the Panthers have the potential to have one of the very best units in the entire state.
Paetow brings back both of their leading tacklers and sack leaders from last season in Daymion Sanford and Alex Kilgore, and the defensive line is anchored by the top ranked player in the state of Texas in the 2023 class in David Hicks Jr. They add another huge presence in Jarra Anderson on the line, and bring back Loghan Thomas. The Panthers can back that up with a strong secondary as well. Christian Hurd is the leader of the back end and Paetow will have plenty of opportunities to force turnovers with their aggressive front seven.
“There’s just so much talent on that defense and it’s really exciting,” Teagle said. “We’re really challenging those guys to go out and prove it. We have all this talent, now we have to go out and perform and be able to execute. We should be able to play and perform with the talent we have and we should be really good on defense, but that’s the challenge, is for them to go out and execute. Not just to be good on paper.”
On offense, Koby Truehill will step in at the quarterback position and will have plenty of talent around him to work with. Damyrion Phillips is back for his senior season and was a force last season when Jacob Brown was out injured, rushing for 1,358 yards and 21 touchdowns, including five performances where he went for over 100 yards rushing. The Panthers also bring back a strong receiving core with both Justin Stevenson and Jason Blue returning, while the Paetow offensive line is led by Nicolas Lira.
“They’ve adjusted really well,” Teagle said. “There’s been hiccups and a learning curve for sure, but they’re adjusting well to it. They enjoy it and there’s a chance for a lot of people to touch the football. It’s kind of made it exciting for them and now we just have to keep building on it and working out the kinks.”
It’s an interesting time for Paetow, with a new but talented group of players coming through and a different system in place under Teagle. The entire team is excited for the year and most importantly, out to prove that they can have just as much success in 6A as they had at lower levels.
“These guys are really motivated,” Teagle said. “They heard the things people said last year, how they said Paetow only won because they were in 5A. But we’re not dwelling on that, the guys are really maintaining the strong championship culture and making into our tradition.”
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