Panthers have great opportunity this week
It’s time for the Siloam Springs football team to rise to the occasion.
The Panthers host Lake Hamilton at 7 p.m. on Friday in a pivotal 6A-West Conference game at Panther Stadium, and it is certainly a game that the Panthers should be competitive in — if not win.
If you remember, Lake Hamilton sort of came out of nowhere and finished third in the 6A-West Conference last season, going 5-2 in league play and only losing games to conference champ Greenwood and eventual state champ Russellville.
Things haven’t gone as smoothly so far for the Wolves under first-year coach Tommy Gilleran. Lake Hamilton, like Siloam Springs, is 2-4 overall but the Wolves are 0-3 in the 6AWest with losses to El Dorado 35-13, Texarkana 14-9 and Russellville 40-35 last week.
Don’t let Lake Hamilton’s record fool you. This team will be a big challenge to the Panthers on Friday night, and winning the battle up front will be a big part of it.
The Wolves have chewed up a lot of yardage on the ground offensively led by sophomore running back Malik Brewer, who has 601 yards on 77 carries and six touchdowns. He really shined last week against Russellville, rushing 20 times for 192 yards. Senior Jacob Nichols has rushed for 494 yards on 65 carries and has scored six touchdowns as well. He had 10 carries for 114 yards against the Cyclones last week.
In the passing game, Wolves senior quarterback Utah Aitken has completed 29 of 81 passes for 497 yards for four touchdowns and seven interceptions. Their passing game hasn’t been their strong set, but the Wolves are certainly capable.
Lake Hamilton won this game a year ago 56-33 in Pearcy, but I’m not sure the Wolves ever really stopped Siloam Springs. The Panthers sort of stopped themselves and helped the Wolves with a pair of turnovers that led directly to Lake Hamilton touchdowns.
But last year is last year. The Panthers are a much improved football team from a year ago. There’s no doubt about that.
Heck, did you see what Greenwood coach Rick Jones told me after last week’s 38-0 Greenwood win?
“I give those guys a lot of credit,” Jones said. “Coach has them playing hard, and fighting and scrapping, and that’s what football’s all about.”
That’s a nice compliment about the Panthers from one who is considered to be one of the top coaches in the state.
Lake Hamilton has a long — grab a pen and underline long — trip to Northwest Arkansas on Friday. It’s not an easy one, and that will have an impact.
A win Friday night at home would go a long way for Siloam Springs in reaching the Class 6A playoffs. Let’s see if the Panthers can rise to the occasion.
— Graham Thomas is the managing editor for the Herald-Leader. He can be reached at gthomas@ nwadg.com. The opinionsexpressed are those of the author.