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Ludlow Panthers May Be Young this Year, but There's Strength in Numbers

Along the endzones of the Ludlow High School football field, grounds crewmen worked in the afternoon sun, sprinkling grass seed and raking it in. Nearby, seventh-year head coach Rick Hornsby led his football team in stretches and drills. Both squads have their hands full now, but both also have their eyes toward the future.

The Ludlow Panthers are a young team and the expectations appear modest for the upcoming season, but in Hornsby's case, he finds comfort in numbers.

“We're excited that we've had more kids come out this year,” Hornsby said. “Last few years we've had 27, 28. This year we're at 41.”

He points to the upgrades made to the Ludlow facilities as a reason more players have come out to play football this season.

“I think the kids are excited about that and hopefully that will keep kids in our systems instead of going to other places. If that happens, we will have some good athletes that stay here.”

The most important of those players might be junior running back, Jerry Martin.

“(Jerry) started last year at safety and running back, so he has a lot experience. He's not the fastest kid, and he's not real big, but he's very good at making cuts and reading the holes so he makes up for it for not having the speed you'd like to see.”

Another player Hornsby will look for to take some team leadership is senior center and middle linebacker, Logan Doane. Already earmarked as a captain, the two-way hard nosed player was repeatedly praised by the coaching staff as a high effort guy. Tackle, Michael Britton is also a captain and was pointed out by Hornsby as an exciting player.

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The offensive line is looked at as an important element to the Panthers' success in 2014. Because of the youth on the roster, and because of the talent in place at running back, center and tackle, Ludlow would like to adopt a run-first identity on offense. Hornsby did admit the unit is a bit light at guard, but likes his that linemen have displayed quickness and footwork.

“We got some guys that can actually move and have a little bit of agility in their legs, so that's exciting.” Hornsby said of his linemen.

The other three teams in Ludlow's district remain their top priority when preparing for specific matchups. Games agains Dayton, Bellevue and Beechwood are paramount on the Panthers' schedule. They have not had a winning record in their district since 2009. Last year, Ludlow finished 4-7 overall, and 1-2 in Class 1A (District 3).

“Those district games are the ones we try to gear for the whole season,” said Hornsby. “We have never had a home playoff game here, so that's been one of our goals the last three years. We're hoping that this year we can turn that around and with the new facilities, that'll be pretty special.”

So while there is still plenty of work and development that must first take place to get the Panthers into the postseason and beyond, Hornsby looks ahead to a stronger Ludlow football program in the near future where the grass should certainly be greener.  

Written by Bryan Burke, RCN staff writer

Photo: Via Ludlow Independent Schools