Gridiron Preview: Central back with eyes on unfinished business - WGEM.com: Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

Gridiron Preview: Central back with eyes on unfinished business

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CAMP POINT, Il. (WGEM) -- On the surface, a lot has changed in the off season for the Central Panthers.

For one, they're no longer co-oped as Central-Southeastern, which will drop Brad Dixon's team from class 2A to class 1A.

Plus, some of the biggest pieces from last years state semifinal squad are gone, including WGEM Player of the Year Drew Miller, and the lethal backfield combo of Doug Weese and Dalton Heubner.

Changes aside, the Panthers might have their best shot yet to win a state title this fall, which has been the goal ever since a loss in last seasons 2A state semifinal game.

"They've been hungry all summer long," Central head coach Brad Dixon told WGEM Sports.

"We put in a really good off season again, and every year the guys that come back always have the goal to try to do better than the guys the year before and these guys are in the same boat."

"We have plenty of people behind us, and they believe in us, and we definitely believe in our whole team," added senior running back Austin Kramberg.

"Coach Dixon just has us fired up every practice. If we come out there not ready he gets on us and we'll be ready right after that, I mean he has a fire under him."

In just two years Brad Dixon has turned the Panthers into one of the premiere small school programs in the state of Illinois.

No matter who carries the rock or calls the signals, it all begins in the trenches, where Central was able to dominate it's WIVC competition from start to finish in 2012.

"I feel safe being as small as I am," said senior quarterback Cole Phillips.

"They're huge and I just have no worries back there."

"It definitely starts there," Dixon added.

"We've got to replace Drew Miller obviously. It's a work in progress always, but it's definitely good when you can return guys in the trenches because then it helps no matter who you but back there in the backfield."

Even with Doug Weese and Dalton Heubner gone, Bobby Keltz remains the work horse at fullback where he rushed for nearly 800 yards and 8 touchdowns in his sophomore campaign.

Meanwhile, Phillips steps in at quarterback adding a new dimension on the ground.

"(Cole) is going to make us even that much more dangerous, because when they've got to concentrate on our fullback and both of our wingbacks, then the opportunity for our quarterback to get out of the pocket is huge for us and our system."

"I'm excited to get more carries this year, more yards," added junior fullback Bobby Keltz.

"I've got the best line in the state so I don't have to worry about a thing."

You don't stampede through a (9-0) regular season by looking past opponents and that will never change with Dixon on the sidelines.

For the Panthers, running onto the turf at Champaign in November is what every rep in practice is ultimately about.

"We believe we can get there, we've just got to keep working hard," Phillips expressed.

"We can't let it get to our heads no matter how the season goes. If it goes bad, we have to stay up and positive, and if it goes good we've got to act like we've been there before."

"We said that five or six years ago when coach Reed took over that our goal was always to play for a state championship," Dixon added.

"With these guys we've focused more on the every day things this year."

"With everything we do, practice, the weight room, if we do that one degree better then all of those little things are going to add up and we're going to get to that place we want to get to."

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