PRICE – Better practices, better preparation and a better understanding of the “Westwood Way” is what excites head coach Richard Bishop and his Panthers for Friday night's season opener against the Price Carlisle Indians.
It's Bishop's fourth season as leader of the Panther football program. It is the first true senior class that he has had since they were freshmen. There was a growing confidence last year that Westwood was headed in the right direction, towards elevating their program to a playoff level.
Though it didn't happen, Friday offers another beginning to what can be accomplished for Westwood this year.
“They believe in themselves and this program,” Bishop said about this year's team. “We seem to have a better team chemistry. We're excited about what's to come. It's going to take great execution to get a win against Carlisle.”
Carlisle returned 12 of its varsity lettermen who were area finalists during their 7-5 season. Westwood goes into this matchup as seven point underdogs, according to Texas Football, but it was the Panthers that walked away with a 40-27 win in last year's opener.
Though it was a confidence builder for Westwood, it didn't directly help them accomplish their goal of reaching the playoffs.
“No knock on anyone but it's been a long time since Westwood won,” Bishop said. “In the past we might have just been happy to be here. Happy to step on the same field and not get embarrassed. We're seeing a maturation process. We're here to win. We expect to win.”
Carlisle's defense welcomes back several playmakers from last year's team under head coach Clay Baker. Linebacker Joel Fraser led the team with 113 tackles and 10 tackles for loss. Defensive end Xaryus Sheppard recorded 50 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and five sacks as a freshman.
They'll be matched against first-year starter Lamarrion Goodwyn who takes over the reigns at quarterback for Westwood. He offers stout size at 6-0, 245 pounds, to compliment running back Kylance Parish who stands at 225 pounds.
Bishop expects Goodwyn to see a good amount of pressure from Carlisle's defensive coordinator Rocky Baker.
“Carlisle knows how to win,” Bishop said. “Their system is instilled. They've been highly successful doing what they do. They don't venture too far because they don't need to. Their kids expect to win. But we are comfortable knowing what we're going to get from them.”
Most importantly for Westwood is evaluating what exactly they have before they open district Sept. 24 against Elkhart. A win against Carlisle is wanted, but it is just one step towards the Panthers’ overall goal.
“Coaches are extremely impatient and competitive most of the time,” Bishop said. “We want things to be perfect. But I learned at an early age from my mentors you have to set yourself up for a 16-week season. You can't put all your eggs in one basket. We're going to adapt and evolve. The coaches who win are those who adjust the best with their personnel.”
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Arrowhead Stadium in Price.