By Joanna Chadwick
That Derby is one of the favorites in Class 6A should surprise no one. How could the Panthers not be included, even though the west will be tough yet again?
Derby advanced to the 6A semifinals last year with so many young players — and players who were thrown in because of way too many injuries.
So how do you think Derby will do this year? Is there enough talent here to win a 6A title? Or will Hutch prove to be a stumbling block?
One of Derby’s strengths from a year ago was at quarterback. The Panthers had three quarterbacks who could play and play well. And they used all three.
This season, though, Chandler Shantz, a two-year starter at Buhler, will be the starter after transferring in to Derby. At 6-foot-4, he’s got an arm and the ability to move well. He’s also extremely physical.
That means that Kellen Sims moves to wide receiver, as does Jeremy Dunham. Although, coach Brandon Clark promises that Dunham will get reps at quarterback. Understandable — the kid can play.
While quarterback will surely be a hot topic around Derby, Tyler West is an outstanding running back and he’ll force teams to respect the run. He had more than 1,000 rushing yards a year ago and is an experienced player who, Clark said, took on a leadership role late last year, despite only being a sophomore.
The offensive line is proven and mostly juniors, including All-Metro lineman Cole Hansen and All-Metro TE DeAndre Goolsby.
The defense has some question marks, although it is led by safety Travis Young, who Clark clocked running a 4.4 40-yard dash, and linebacker Ben Becker. And Clark made it clear that the defense beat up on the offense during summer workouts.
I like this team, but I don’t see it going undefeated through the regular season — that schedule is too ridiculously tough. Still, Derby will be a team to reckon with in the playoffs.