Don’t jump to conclusions.
Even though he’s a former Mr. Football winner who set passing records in high school, don’t think that Bill Whittemore is going turn Franklin Road Academy into a pass happy outfit.
The new head coach has settled into his new job as head coach and has focused on preparations for the Panthers’ opener Friday night at St. George’s.
“A lot of people think that [FRA will be overly pass oriented],” Whittemore, 31, a standout quarterback for Brentwood High, said. “But we’re going to try to have a good balance of run and pass. We’ll use whichever area makes us more successful.
“We’ll see what’s working and stick with it.”
One player who wouldn’t mind at all if FRA became pass-heavy is senior wide receiver/defensive back/punt returner Dalton Ponchillia, probably the team’s most versatile player.
“That would be fine with me,” Ponchillia, who was the team’s leading receiver last season, said. “But I just want to do whatever I can to make the team successful.”
The Panthers made the DII-A playoffs last fall but lost to Evangelical Christian and finished 4-7.
Ponchillia, along with quarterback Matt Hissong, another senior, makes the Panthers a constant threat in the passing game.
“Matt and I have been playing together since we were freshmen, and we’ve worked hard over the summer,” the 6-foot, 175-pound speedster said. “… The players were a little wary [of the new coaches] at first. But we’ve gotten very comfortable with them and we’ve established a close bond. I’m very excited, and I’m expecting great things from this team, much better than last year.”
Whittemore was the Class 5A Mr. Football in 1998, when he guided Brentwood to the state playoff quarterfinals in a storybook 12-1 season. Along the way hhe set several school passing records, which still stand.
He signed with UT-Martin then transferred to Kansas where he passed for 4,051 yards in his final two seasons.
“I’m very excited about our season,” he said. “The players have really adapted to me and to our coaching staff relatively quickly. We have 42 out, and they are learning what they are expected to do.
“We’re fairly small, but we’ve got a lot of experience and a bigger junior group.”
Whittemore is very much looking forward playing on the new field turf which, along with a new track, is being installed at the stadium and is scheduled for completion in time for the home opener Aug. 24 against Hillsboro.
“We’re still on target but it’s going to be close,” he said laughing. “It may not be completely finished until the afternoon of Aug. 24.”
Ponchillia is pumped up as well.
“Playing in our home opener on the new turf, that’ll be fun,” he said.
He also intends to use as much of it as possible.
“I like the deep routes, but Matt and I are good on the short and mid-range passes as well,” he said.
Of course, not every play will be a pass, though.