Panthers prepare for season opener

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Updated: August 24, 2018

By Quinton Bagley

Little River News

Ashdown senior Cody Flowers is blocked by a Prescott offensive lineman while trying to get to the Curley Wolf quarterback during last week’s scrimmage at Dick Hays Stadium. The Panthers will open the season at 7 p.m. Friday when they host the Hamburg Lions.

After just a few short weeks of practice and a pair of scrimmages, the Ashdown Panthers will open the 2018 season Friday as they welcome the Hamburg Lions to Dick Hays Stadium.

“We are excited to start the season,” Ashdown head coach Matt Richardson said. “We are ready to play in a game that matters and hit somebody besides ourselves.”

Before the Panthers take the field for the season opener, there are some things that Richardson said the team really needed to improve on.

“We saw some things in the 35-7 loss to Prescott in the scrimmage game that we need to get fixed,” Richardson said. “We need to play with more energy and play unselfish. We have a lot of work to do but I feel this team will rise to the challenge.”

This will be the third meeting between the Panthers and the Lions in as many years. Hamburg kicked a field goal in 2016 to get the win. Last season, the Panthers won 56-10. The Lions return eight starters on offense and nine on defense.

Returning to lead Hamburg’s Spread offense is senior Jonathan Kelley (6-2, 205). Last season, Kelley completed 138 of 284 passes for 1,683 yards and nine touchdowns. He also has 4.7 speed making him a dual threat.

Junior D.J. Johnson (6-1, 200) returns at receiver. He averaged 17 yards a catch last season. Another receiver, Jaylen Wilson (6-2, 190), didn’t play in 2017 but has the potential to develop into a college prospect. Another offensive weapon for the Lions is tight end Gage Price (6-2, 250). He ran for 61 yards and four touchdowns on 10 carries last season at fullback. He is also the starting defensive tackle.

On defense, the Lions run a 4-3. Richardson said that in its scrimmage last week Hamburg also played some 4-4 defense. In addition to the big defensive tackle Gage, defense end Aaron Mondragon (6-0, 205) returns for his third season at that position. Last season, he had 78 tackles and two sacks.

The Panthers are young this season after losing a large group of talent to graduation in May. Richardson said that one key to Ashdown’s success this season will be finding their identity.

“We have to get them to believe in themselves,” Richardson said. “We have the talent, we just have to take control. Jaden Hill, Trey Green, Alex Simmon, Alex Day and Ladarius Bishop were all great leaders but they have graduated. We need this group to step up and lead. We do that, we will be OK.”

Kickoff for Friday’s game is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Dick Hays Stadium. The first 500 fans will get a free rally towel courtesy of Domtar. The game will also be broadcast on KDQN 92.1 FM.