Quarterback duo have Panthers poised to claim titleWritten by Chris Schmidbauer | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Whitmer Panthers joined the City League for the 2003 football season, but a league championship has remained a dream.
“That has been the one thing that has eluded us,” said Whitmer head football coach Joe Palka. “Whether it was a points issue or a loss here or there, we had not won a title.”
But with a win over the Start Spartans on Oct. 30, the Whitmer Panthers will win their first City League championship, due in large part to the team’s special duo at quarterback, Joe Missler and Randall Kennedy.
The Panthers have utilized the athletic abilities of both this season in their offensive backfield. Missler and Kennedy rotate positions throughout the game. Whitmer has lined up both players at quarterback, wide receiver, and running back this season and it is something that coach Palka believes has given his team a leg up on the competition.
“It was an opportunity to put our best athletes in the backfield,” Palka said. “We feel Randall throws the ball really well and Joe has had a great year running the ball for us. It was us trying to be creative as we can, and maximize both of the kids’ talents.”
Some players might be intimidated not knowing where they are going to line up every down, but Missler, a senior, and Kennedy, a sophomore, have come to relish their unique roles in the Panther offense.
“I will do whatever I can for this team,” Missler said. “Whether I am playing quarterback, wide receiver, or running back, I do not care as long as we are winning.”
Kennedy echoed his teammates’ sentiments.
“No matter where you line up, you have to be ready and play hard,” he said. “You just try and do the best that you can to help the team.
It was three weeks ago that then-unbeaten Central found out just how dangerous the pair under center can be. Missler ran for 61 yards in the contest and Kennedy threw a 47 yard touchdown pass to help lead the Panthers past the Irish 14-7. The win put Whitmer back in the driver seat in the race for the City League title, after the Panthers had lost to the St. Francis Knights on Oct. 2.
“We said all along after the loss to St. Francis that if we learn from that and won the rest of our games, we could still accomplish our goals,” Palka said. “The kids hated the feeling of losing and we became a more driven team.”
Missler savored the victory over Central, a team that Whitmer has had trouble with in the past.
“After the St. Francis game, it was demoralizing,” he said. “We came back against Clay the following week, and we felt we could beat Central. We played very well and were able to come away with a victory.”
Kennedy felt that the game against the Irish showed that there is no limit to how good the Panthers can be when they put their minds to it.
“We faced a great Central defense, and we had two really big plays offensively,” Kennedy said. “What many people do not realize is that one of those plays went 99 yards. I think that speaks volumes about what our offense can do when we execute properly.”
After taking care of business against Bowsher, a 64-13 victory over the Rebels, Whitmer has just one hurdle left in league play.
“Our team is working hard, and we have ingrained in these kids to not look ahead,” Palka said.
The Panthers may be focused on this last game before the state playoffs start, but the team has certainly had thoughts about what it would mean to capture that elusive first league championship.
“To bring home a title would be huge,” Palka said. “To win that first City League championship, if we are fortunate enough to do it, would be so big for us, the program and the Whitmer community.”