Albany Panthers quarterback Cecil Lester was dynamite during last season, including a 10-touchdown performance in the title game. But the Panthers’ offense looked a bit a stagnant in their season opener this past Saturday, throwing just three TD passes in a low-scoring, 40-28 victory. (email@example.com)
ALBANY — Lucious Davis didn’t shy away from describing the Panthers’ offense in Saturday’s season opener.
“We stunk it up,” the Albany coach said about Saturday’s 40-28 win against Richmond — a game during which his offense had just 126 total yards.
WHO: Albany Panthers (1-0) at Louisiana Swashbucklers (1-0).
WHAT: Rematch of last year’s league championship game.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday.
WHERE: Lake Charles, La.
RADIO: 97.3 FM.
Quarterback Cecil Lester would like to forget it, too.
“I would give myself a C-plus,” Lester said Wednesday after practice when asked to rate his performance. “What we are working on in practice is completions and continuing to move the ball and score. We didn’t do much scoring (Saturday).”
Panther fans who were used to a high-flying, fast-paced offense were likely stunned Saturday during the home opener at the Albany Civic Center, but Lester is confident he and his offense will regain their edge in two days against Louisiana in a rematch of last year’s SIFL Championship game.
“We pride ourselves in scoring touchdowns,” said Lester, who threw 64 touchdowns last season but was just 11-for-23 on Saturday. “That’s our personality — to score every possession.”
The reason the Panthers weren’t clicking last week was simple, according to Americus-Sumter grad and receiver John Harris.
“Our timing was just off,” said Harris, who was held to three catches and 45 yards Saturday. “You can’t simulate game speed during practice. The balls come out of (Lester’s) hands faster, and everything is faster during the game. So (at practice) you just have to practice the throws you will make in the game and run the routes how you will run them in the game.”
There was bad timing and also some first-game jitters, but Davis said his offense is also recovering from a preseason during which players were thrown into new positions. Fullback Derrick Wimbush was moved to the defense, center Terrance Smith stepped into the backfield and receivers Harris and fellow former Americus-Sumter star Antwon Cutts played different wideout roles.
They are all back in their original positions, however, and ready to regain the swagger that led them to a SIFL Championship last season.
And they think it will return Saturday in Louisiana, where the Panthers have never won in three seasons..
“We just need to get back to being successful every play,” Lester said. “With the guys on our team, it’s more of a mental thing than anything else. We like to get focused, and that is what gives us our edge.”
With the amount of time Lester and his receivers have played pitch-and-catch, it’s just a matter of time before the passing game comes around. Lester, the former QB at Fort Valley State, has played arena ball for seven years, while his three starting wide outs — Cutts, Harris and Westover grad Antwone Savage — have a combined 14 years of experience.
“They will be getting back to their usual selves (Saturday),” Davis said.