New Panther coach Jason Silbaugh seeks to balance offense and defense | 2012 Football Preview

Robert Combs runs the ball

With a strong offensive core returning from last year – including a high-powered quarterback and last year’s league-leading receiver – new Bonney Lake football coach Jason Silbaugh has high hopes for this year’s Panthers squad.

“My expectations are very high,” Silbaugh said. “I think this team has a chance to be very special.”

Last season, the team finished 6-3, fourth in the South Puget Sound League 3A. This year, Silbaugh wants the Panthers to bring home their first title.

Senior quarterback Chris Brown will lead the offensive attack again this year and Silbaugh, who coached the defense at Lakes High School last season, said it’s nice to share a sideline with Brown for a change.

“Chris is awesome,” he said. “It’s nice not to have to stop him.”

Along with his talent on the field, Silbaugh said Brown acts as a “coach on the field,” helping coach up younger players while Silbaugh works with the defense.

Running the routes for Brown this season will be several returning wide receivers, including Zach Zaragoza and Kaleb Zahnow. According to Silbaugh, Zaragoza led the SPSL 3A in receptions last season and the pair expect to account for much of the team’s offense again this season.

But Silbaugh said he is changing the team’s offense from the pass-heavy play of a year ago. Calling the squad “pass happy” last season, Silbaugh said approximately 60 of plays were passes.

“I’m not that style,” he said, adding that he planned to have a more balanced attack, with returning senior E.J. Harris and sophomore Ethan McElderry expected to grind out the yards on the ground.

While the team’s offense seems primed for another big year, Silbaugh said his defense is a bit young and inexperienced. There are no returning seniors on the Panther line this season, not something a coach usually likes to see.

But at the same time, the young squad seems to be coming together quite well, according to Silbaugh, who said even the returners have had some work to do this summer as the team plans to do more running behind the line.

“Their upside is huge,” he said.

Silbaugh also said the defense should be aided by the schedule, which has the Panthers opening up with four nonleague games, something he sees as a chance to get the defense some playing time and experience before things really start to count.

“It gives them four games before it counts for the postseason,” he said.

The Bonney Lake Panthers open their season at home Saturday against Lincoln at Sunset Chev Stadium.