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  • Writer's picturetgardner1167

New Coach, Same Expectations for the Panthers

Every August for the past 30 years John Faller has shared his love of football with and set high expectations for the young men that came through the Sweet Home football program.

This week that changed as Rich Lowe officially took over as head coach of the Sweet Home Panthers, the fourth in school history, but the expectations are as high as ever.

Lowe is extremely honored to take over for Faller, who won two state titles, eight sectional championships and 16 division crowns in his tenure as head coach of the Panthers, and plans to lead the program in the same fashion that his predecessor did.

“It’s very humbling,” Lowe said. “Coach Faller has done such as fantastic job with the program for so many years. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. We’re running the program very similar to the way he did because those are the traditions that have been put in place here in Sweet Home.”

Lowe has been a part of the Panthers’ coaching staff since 1998.

The biggest thing that Lowe will be trying to get across to his players is that they should be accountable and have discipline.

“We want everybody to be on time, be accountable and to not make excuses,” Lowe said. That could be seen throughout practice Monday, especially at the end when Lowe himself led the conditioning.

Seniors Dylan McDuffie and Tom Rivera certainly noticed.

“All the way from doing 10 pushups for a helmet being unbuckled to making sure guys finish their runs,” Rivera said.

In 2016, the Panthers had a down year going 2-6 overall and 2-4 the Class A North division. The Panthers lose Nate Faller, Cam Gates and Joe Pandolfi to graduation.

Sweet Home is hoping for a big bolster as they welcome back McDuffie. The running back was at St. Francis last year after spending his freshman and sophomore years at Sweet Home. McDuffie was the Red Raiders leading rusher and a Connolly Cup finalist in 2016. He also has serval Division-I offers.

“It’s fun,” McDuffie said “I’m back with my friends and people I consider my brothers. We’ve been tight since eighth grade. Being back is like a homecoming for me.”

McDuffie will go along well with Rivera, who was one of the Panthers’ leading rushers last season. The plan is for the two to spilt carries on offense and fill important spots on the defensive side of the ball.

According to Lowe, McDuffie is a game changer for Sweet Home and will compliment well with Rivera.

“It’s night and day,” Lowe said of McDuffie. “We’re definitely a different team with him, both offensively and defensively. It’s going to be nice because if one needs a breather we can do it while the other one is carrying the ball.”

Joe Torrillo comes back after splitting time with Gates at the quarterback position last season. This year Torrillo will compete with Maurice Robinson, last year’s starting JV quarterback, for the starting QB spot.

“Robinson is more of an athletic kid, where Torrillo is more of a pocket passer,” Lowe said.

Seniors Peyton Urbaniak and Ryan Harris bring back experience to the receiving core.

Sweet Home is looking for a big impact from receiver Sam Roby, who is coming up from the JV.

After two straight years of missing the playoffs, the Panthers are now ready to get back to their winning tradition.

McDuffie wants the Panthers to be the team to beat in the Class A North division.

“We want to bring fear back to Sweet Home,” McDuffie said.

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