The Panthers are set to begin conference play against Brevard this Friday night. Although Brevard has struggled this year, the Panthers are preparing for a battle. “I don’t care who we play, we are going to get ready to compete and try to win every game,” said Coach Josh Brooks.
Conference rival Pisgah was predicted to finish first in the WNC Athletic Conference, according to the WNCAC preseason coaches poll. Franklin was predicted to finish third, but the Panthers have already shown that they are capable of making a conference title run.
The Panthers traveled to Charlotte to take on Charlotte Christian for the first game of the season and completely dismantled their opponent, winning 28-7.
The Murphy Bulldogs then traveled into the Panther Pit to take on the Panthers, renewing an old Smoky Mountain rivalry, but the Bulldogs had no answer for Franklin’s defense. Quarterback Austin Gibson completed 12 of 18 passes for 183 yards and one touchdown to lead the Panthers to victory over the Murphy Bulldogs 38-21. Franklin’s backfield assisted Gibson with another 272 rushing yards on the ground, giving the Panthers 455 total yards against the Bulldogs.
In week three, the Panthers traveled to Asheville to take on former conference rival T.C. Roberson, in a game that saw another impressive performance from the Panthers defense. The Panthers secured yet another road win, beating the Rams 20-0.
Preseason conference favorite Pisgah has experienced a myriad of setbacks so far this season, including a demoralizing loss against T.C. Roberson. Meanwhile, the Panthers are rising above expectations.
The Panthers are in a good position to make a run for a conference championship, and the squad is determined to make the most out of a promising season. “We should be picked to win the rest of our games this season, so we are excited about this opportunity,” said Coach Brooks.
“We are definitely off to a good start,” said Panthers quarterback Gibson. “I'm really impressed with how our offensive line has performed this season, and our defense has been amazing. They have picked us up all season. If something happens on offense, I know our defense will be able to keep us in the game. If I can run our offense and avoid turnovers, I think we will have a good chance to be successful for the rest of the season.”
Gibson has helped lead the Panthers to a 4-0 start, but is remaining cautiously optimistic going forward into conference play. “Once conference play begins, every team has a clean slate,” said Gibson. “I’m proud of what we have been able to do so far, but our goal is to win a conference championship.”
The Panthers defense has performed remarkably well all season long, shutting out division 4A T.C. Roberson and holding Swain to just 115 total yards on offense. “It makes it really easy to call plays on offense when you know the other team can’t score,” said Coach Brooks. “Our defense has set the tempo for all four games, and we have won by being better up front.”
One major reason for the Panthers success at the line of scrimmage is attributed to the play of senior Thomas Evans. “Thomas has pretty much dominated at the line of scrimmage all four games,” said Coach Brooks.
Thomas Evans plays on offense and defense, providing the Panthers with power and experience that opponents find difficult to overcome. Evans is listed at 6'4, 280 pounds and has already proved why he is such a tremendous asset for Franklin’s coaching staff.
Evans has also received a scholarship offer from Lenoir-Rhyne.
“I will do whatever it takes for us to win,” said Panthers lineman Thomas Evans. “We have to take one game at a time, give 110 percent every snap, and execute like we know we can do. Some teams will be bigger and faster, but we know we have the ability to win every game. Our goal is to win a conference championship.”
The Panthers look to go 5-0 overall and 1-0 in the WNCAC this Friday night at Brevard. Kickoff begins at 7:30p.m. at Brevard High School.