Ready for Panther football
It is an exciting time to be a Panther, says Todd Mooney, Head Football Coach.
This year begins the college's affiliation with the USA South Athletic Conference,
and that new relationship offers all kinds of opportunities.
"From a football standpoint, it is particularly special," Coach Mooney says. "We
have been independent for five of the six years we've been playing football, and
that presented some significant challenges."
Most of those problems were logistic.
"We would have to fill our schedule based on everyone else's conference schedule,"
he says. "We'd be out there, year in and year out, all over the country, trying
to set the best schedule we could with limited choices after the third week."
Belonging to a conference takes that strain away, offers additional opportunities
to qualify for the national playoffs, and to share in weekly and annual conference
"Being a part of USA South is fantastic," he says. "The competition within this
league is extremely high– these football teams are very good."
The new Panther season will start with three outstanding non-conference foes –
all teams who are familiar to LaGrange fans.
"These teams are extremely talented and extremely physical. Birmingham-Southern
has a preseason ranking coming into this season. They've always presented a significant
challenge to us as an opening game and it's become a good rivalry."
That will be followed by contests with Millsaps and Huntingdon.
"These three games will get us ready to go (in the new conference) in a hurry."
But Coach Mooney is confident his team will do well.
"The strength of our team is that we have a large number of returning starters,"
he says. "And where we've lost starters, we have a great deal of experience with
56 lettermen in our program. I feel like, although we're young, we have an extremely
talented group of players who will take the field for us, and we're really excited
to show what we have the ability to do."
There will be some new faces on the sidelines this season.
Terry Ursin Jr. begins his first year as the Defensive Coordinator and Varsity
Strength Coordinator. He comes to LaGrange from Holmes Community College (Miss.),
where he served in the same capacity for the 2011 season.
"We're very fortunate to have Terry with us," Coach Mooney says. "It's a testament
to the growth of our program and certainly a testament to the college that we're
able to attract someone with Terry's fire and experience."
Three former Panthers have joined the coaching staff.
"We've been fortunate to add three of our alumni this year – Kyle Sanders, Chris
Prewett and Devin Billings," Coach Mooney says. "These are names you would have
seen on the stat sheets as players over the years. These men have decided to make
their lives in coaching and we're lucky enough to bring three of our own back into
the program to help us kick off this 2012 season."
Although the new conference offers some new challenges, Coach Mooney believes
his team is ready.
"The biggest thing we've been challenging our players with is to work with exceeding
discipline in all phases of our game. This started last spring with the effort
that we put in the weight room. We have begun challenging ourselves as players
and coaches to work at a higher level, and the guys have really taken that and
run with it.
"There will be an extremely high-energy football team on the field, and I think
it is going to be really exciting."