Southern Air Cenla Summer Camp: Buckeye Panthers
DEVILLE, La. (KALB) - The Buckeye Panthers have not had much success the past few years, as they have not had a winning season since 2021 and finished last season 5-5. There is light at the end of the tunnel as first-year Head Coach Ben McLaughlin takes over the Panthers program.
“The whole staff that was here last year is with me still,” said McLaughlin. “Did we come and make some changes, yes, but there were some foundational building blocks that they had laid, and we just came in, and I put my flavor on it, and everyone adapted to it.”
McLaughlin comes to Buckeye from being the offensive coordinator at Alexandria Senior High School as he brings experience and success to the Panthers’ coaching staff.
“In football, you just need a change sometimes when the coach has been there forever,” said McLaughlin. “The kids see the same thing over and over, and a change was needed for me and a change was needed for them, and it has been a good match so far.”
The Panthers are excited about the changes Coach McLaughlin has brought to their playbook.
“Our defense is going to be really, really good. Our offense is going to be good too,” said junior Defensive Lineman Gage Vercher. “We are going to have a winning season, I just know it, and we will make it to the playoffs easily.”
Senior Quarterback Titan Johnson has not started the past few years, but this is his last ride with the Panthers, and he will take the starting position and is ready for the changes Coach McLaughlin has implemented on offense.
“Impress Coach Mac, don’t let him down, that is really my motivation,” said Johnson. “Everything is different. Shotgun, we are in shotgun now, not under center. It is more of a passing offense, not a read option every play, it is different, but I think it will work out just fine for us.”
The Panthers have five returning starters on offense and six on defense, thirteen of them are seniors who are ready to take their last season together by storm.
One of the key leaders and seniors on the defense is Brayden Belgard, who was named All-District First Team on offense and defense with 20 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and two sacks.
“Coach is focusing me mainly on defense now,” said Belgard. “It is going to be a lot better for our team, and I should make a lot more tackles and be way more prepared for our season coming up.”
The players said Coach McLaughlin’s energy and determination have made them look forward to coming to practice and are ready for a winning season and to make it to the playoffs for the first time in four years.
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