TRL Football Preview: Yates Center

Yates Center Wildcats

Head Coach: Ryan Panko (3-7 — .300, second season)

Assistant Coaches: Eric Busteed and Rick Hurst

2017 record: 3-7 (3-1 league)

 2017 Yates Center Football Schedule
 9/1 v. LyndonL 69-18
 9/8 v. NE-Arma*W 20-14
 9/15 @ Northern HeightsL 50-12
 9/22 @ Jayhawk-Linn*42-6
 9/29 v. St. MarysL 70-0
 10/6 @ OlpeL 61-0
 10/13# v. St. Mary’s ColganL 42-0
 10/20# @ Uniontown*W 24-22
 10/26# v. Oswego*W 20-18
 11/3 @ OlpeL 62-0

2017 season in review: Yates Center’s 2017 season started off on a rough note, losing six of their first seven games by a large margin. While the competition was stiff, the Wildcats still struggled overall. However, Yates Center was able to finish their season with two highly competitive wins over Uniontown and Oswego. Those two wins enabled the Wildcats to sneak into the class 2A 11-man playoffs for the first time in twenty-seven years. While they did lose their playoff game to Olpe, 62-0, the Wildcats’ roster gained valuable experience. On the season there was one silver lining: Yates Center went 3-1 and finished second in the TRL.

Key departures: Devon Hathaway / Julius Hodges / John Righini

Top returning players: 

RB/DB Quin Lowder — (5’6, 140, Sr.) — First-team All-TRL DB

RB/LB Thayne Smith — (Sr.) — HM All-TRL RB

OL/LB Cade DeWitt — (5’11, 165, Jr.)

OL/DL Trent Burton — (5’11, 230, Jr.)

TE/DL Tytan Smoot — (6’1, 175, Jr.)

RB/LB James Hess — (5’7, 140, Jr.)

RB/LB Kayle Smith — (Jr.)

OL/DL Bryson Howell — (So.)

2018 season preview: Looking to build off their first playoff appearance in twenty seven years as well as their second place finish in the TRL, Yates Center looks to be much improved in 2018. After a successful off-season program, head coach Ryan Panko enters his second full year with the team looking for more consistency throughout his roster. The Wildcats return All-TRL performers Quin Lowder and Thanye Smith, as well as a number of other starters on offense and defense. Yates Center also sports a fresh new schedule, replacing powerhouse programs Olpe and Lyndon for Pleasanton and Southeast, the newcomers to the TRL 11-Man division. Expect the upcoming 2018 season to be much different than 2017 for the Wildcats.

Predicted 2018 Three Rivers League finish: TRL Coaches Preseason Poll – 4th    SEK Sports Contributors – 3rd

 2018 Yates Center Football Schedule
 8/31 v. Jayhawk-Linn*
 9/7 @ Northeast-Arma*
 9/14 @ Southeast-Cherokee*
 9/21 v. Northern Heights
 9/28 @ Leon-Bluestem
 10/5# @ St. Mary’s Colgan
 10/12# v. Uniontown*
 10/19# v. Pleasanton*
 10/26 TBA

Biggest game of 2018: Jayhawk-Linn. Is there a better way to kick off the 2018 season than to play the three time defending TRL champions? That answer may vary depending on who you speak to, but for Yates Center this is a great opportunity to open the season against a quality opponent. Not only will they have a chance to knock off the defending TRL champions, but they will have the chance to put the TRL on notice. As long as the Wildcats are competitive in this contest, it may be a precursor to a successful season. This includes not only competing for a TRL title, but also for a second consecutive trip to the playoffs. Yates Center will be able to use this week one match-up as a measuring stick for the rest of the season.

Interview with Head Coach Ryan Panko.

SEK Are there any team captains or players that you feel put in extra effort this off-season and deserve to be recognized?

Ryan Panko: Several players were consistent participants to our off-season workouts this past summer. Thayne Smith and Kayle Smith made it to 100% of our weight sessions. Juniors Cade DeWitt and Trent Burton both had a productive summer as well. I was also impressed with a few of my underclassmen. Sophomores Bryson Howell and Hunter Evans, along with freshmen Kendrick Jones, Blake Audiss, and Carter Burton, all made it to at least 80% of our weights’ workouts this past summer. I should also point out, Nolan Jones, a senior who did not play last year, will be joining the Wildcats this fall, and will play a HUGE role on both sides of the ball. He also had a very productive summer.

SS: What is your opinion of the new playoff/district classifications?

RP: I really do not have an opinion either way on the new classifications. It is what it is.

SS: What defines a successful season for your program?

RP: A successful season can be defined in many ways whether that be wins, losses, playoffs, whatever. In all honesty, it is our hope that our players will continue to grow and buy into what we are trying to accomplish here at Yates Center. Historically, Yates Center is not a football-driven community. We want to put a quality product on the field that everyone in Yates Center can be proud and excited about.

SS: Does your team have any pre-game or walk through practice traditions?

RP: Not really, no. Or none that I am aware of. We are in the process of developing some “traditions” this upcoming year…but before I go as far as calling them “traditions”, it may take a few years before that happens.

SS: What do you see as being your biggest obstacle this upcoming season as a team?

RP: I would say our biggest obstacle will be the lack of depth we have with certain positions. We are only a key injury or two away from having to revamp our offensive and defensive philosophy. If we can stay healthy, we should be in good shape.

SS: What do you feel are your teams’ strengths?

RP: I would say our biggest obstacle will be the lack of depth we have with certain positions. We are only a key injury or two away from having to revamp our offensive and defensive philosophy. If we can stay healthy, we should be in good shape.

SS: In one word the 2018 schedule can be described as?

RP: Attainable

SS: Northeast will contend for a Three Rivers League Title if?

RP: The only way we will be able to even consider contending for a Three Rivers League title is if we can: buy into our roles, stay healthy, and limit costly penalties and turnovers. If we do that, one game at a time we might just win it.

SS: What do you most look forward to about this upcoming season?

RP: Mostly, I am looking forward to putting consistent, purposeful practices together and going out and actually seeing what we can do with the schedule we have. As the weeks go by, I am hoping the brotherhood that a lot of us formed over the summer will continue to grow into something much bigger, which will in turn, put a product on the field that this community can be proud of.

I would like to give a huge thanks to head coach Ryan Panko for taking time to share insight about the Wildcats’ upcoming season, as well as wish his team the best of luck!

Catch the next installment of the Three Rivers League football preseason preview on Monday (5/27) when we cover the Southeast Lancers.