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Sale Creek junior quarterback Braden Penny looks to help lead the program to its first winning season in school history. The Panthers have a loaded offensive line and hope to set new marks in 2019.
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Sale Creek seventh year head coach Ron Cox watches on during a summer practice. Cox expects big things out of the Panthers this season.

Head coach: Ron Cox (8-52 in six years here and overall)

Returning starters: 6 offensive; 6 defensive

Key players: OL-LB Ethan Hyde (5-11, 210); OL-DL-LB Jacob Francisco (6-3, 220); QB-DB Braden Penny (5-11, 160); RB-DB Will Roberts (5-9, 170); OL-DL Race May (6-5, 305); OL-DL Maddoux Beason (6-2, 240); WR-DB Patrick Maloy (6-1, 175)

Team strengths: Not many Class 1A teams will have the size the Panthers do up front, as their offensive line averages 6-foot-3 and 268 pounds. The playmaking ability of juniors Penny and Roberts should show behind this stout front, which adds newcomer Malcolm Key (6-8, 366).

"This is the best team we have ever had here," Cox said. "Not only is our offensive line the biggest and strongest we have ever fielded, but this is the quickest set of skill players we've had at Sale Creek. Our guys have a great shot to set school records."

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Sale Creek junior quarterback/cornerback Braden Penny runs with the football during a summer practice. The Panthers play their home games at Finley Stadium and look to set program records this year.

Team concerns: With only 30 on the roster, depth is the biggest concern. The team simply cannot lose key players to injury, as nearly half will have to play both ways. The possible return of tailback Seth Hodge would be a major boost, too.

Breakout candidate: Roberts showed promise taking over the starting wingback role in the second half of last season. With a powerful line and his darting ability, big numbers could be ahead for him in the pistol wing-T attack.

Season outlook: The Panthers need four wins to set a program record one year after their first playoff appearance.

Hyde is a run-stopping force at middle linebacker, but others have to step up in a new 3-3-5 defensive scheme under new coordinator Kevin Rodriguez. Penny is a leader in the secondary, while the big linemen will play two ways.

"Our goal is to finish third or better in the region and go to the second round of the playoffs," Cox said. "A winning season is very attainable for this group."

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