CHULA, GA (WALB) -
The Tiftarea Panthers are ready to get back to the state playoffs, and they feel the numbers are in their favor this season.
The Panthers enter the 2014 campaign with 45 players and 17 seniors, some of the highest numbers in Ryan Branch's tenure in Chula.
More than that, Tiftarea has lost only five players in three years. That means the Panthers are loaded with returning starters and backups. Entering his third season at Tiftarea, Branch says that's a beautiful thing for a coach to have.
"Our numbers have always hovered around 30 to 40, but if you lose only four kids in three years, you've got the same bunch," he says. "These kids know me. They know what I expect. They know the system. So, everything is expected to be a little bit faster, a little bit more well performed this year."
Not only does Branch like where the Panthers' numbers are, he also likes the seniors' leadership. "For two years, we've really had to coach them up on how to practice. How to start your practice, tempo of practice, and things like that," Branch says. "We come out now and kids are already starting practice without us. If we're even a little bit behind as coaches, they're on top of us."
The Panthers open the 2014 season this Thursday night when they host Crisp Academy.