Sweet Home enters the new season in an unfamiliar position.
The Panthers are coming off a loss to a Section VI opponent, something that last happened in 2006 against Iroquois before eventual state runner-up Williamsville North got them, 21-12, in the Class A final at Ralph Wilson Stadium last November.
In between losses to Section VI brethren, Sweet Home had won 69 straight games against Western New York teams, six Section VI Class A titles and two state championships. They have made it to the sectional final each year since 2005,
"I mentioned it at our team talk in the beginning and really all I said was the seniors there didn't finish what they started out to do last year and that was to win the sectional championship," veteran Panthers coach John Faller said. "It's this seniors' legacy and the juniors that are with them to see what they are going to do. Last year is over. It was a tough loss but every loss is and we knew it was coming sooner or later. It just happened to be that game."
The Panthers opened with fitness testing during a morning session and concluded opening day with an afternoon practice with helmets and shorts. They plan to work on offense the first three days and the focus on defense once they're allowed to wear shoulder pads.
Key skilled players for Sweet Home include returning All-WNY Second Team pick Brandon Smiley, a receiver/defensive back who has verbally committed to the University at Buffalo.
"He is one of our best athletes," Faller said. "He's got good grades. He's got everything UB is looking for in a player."
Other key players include running backs Jordan Evert and Jordan Heine and quarterback Kevin Torrillo.
Sweet Home won the St. John Fisher passing league, so Faller knows his skilled players are more the ready for the season. The rest of training camp will allow linemen to catch up, he said.