EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – The underdog role is a role the Reitz Panthers aren’t too used to playing.
Prior to 2019, it had been 20 years since Reitz football last underwent a losing season.
But over the past two years, the Panthers have gotten off track. The team went 3-7 in 2019, and 4-7 last year.
The high expectations that normally surround Reitz have dwindled, but that’s all right for senior receiver Isaac Maynard.
“Having those last two years, it almost helps us,” Maynard said. “We’ve got a bitter taste in our mouth. We definitely don’t want to repeat. The nut club trophy, stuff like that. Stuff we usually win, we just didn’t. So, we’re hungry for that.”
Reitz will be tasked with replacing the production lost by quarterback Reid Brickey’s graduation. They’ll turn to senior Nate Staley. Just last year, Staley was playing safety for the Panthers, but he said he got the chance to study under Brickey and feels comfortable getting his first start under center.
But Staley will have help on offense. The Panthers return four offensive linemen, plus running back Jay Smith, who was prolific on both sides of the ball last year. Smith rushed for over 400 yards, and added 30 total tackles on defense.
He’ll be leaned on heavily for a young defense that head coach Cory Brunson said will need some time to get acclimated.
What they lack in experience, the team makes up for in attitude. Their motto this year, “Be the Change,” is self-explanatory. It’s all about reviving a winning culture on the west side.
“They know the expectation here is not a four win season,” Brunson said. “They know that. I think they are doing the things to trend back to where they need to be. Our theme is to be the change. They want to be the group to get us back on an upward trend.”
That message seems to be getting through to his players.
“We’re definitely going to be overlooked,” said Staley. “I read news articles all the time. Reitz is never in them. So, I think we’re just ready to get in and change things.”
They’ll get their first chance when they open up the season on Aug. 20 against Harrison.