Derby football got off to the roughest start to the season in quite some time last Friday when the Panthers (0-1) fell on the road to defending 5A state champs Mill Valley 45-14 to snap a 26-game win streak. But, with that unpleasantness behind them, Derby turns their eyes forward to the long season ahead and their next game this Friday at Newton.
The Panthers will kick off Friday night at 7 p.m. from Fischer Field in Newton.
“I’ve been talking to the kids quite a bit since Friday night,” Derby head coach Brandon Clark said. “They’re all hungry. No one has given up. Sometimes a loss can lead to forward-thinking and can turn into a positive. I think it lit a fire under the kids.”
Nearly everything about the Panthers seemed uncharacteristic Friday night but nothing more so than the mistakes and mental errors that allowed one of the best teams in the state to take full control of the game from start to finish.
However, the good news for the Panthers and Derby fans alike is Clark seems confident that after some focused tweaking in practice, the two-time defending 6A state champs can start to look more like themselves on the football field.
“There were a lot of mistakes that we made that are correctable,” Clark said. “I feel like if we can rebound after watching film and learn from our mistakes, we’re not too far away.”
The Railers (0-1) also come into the game nursing wounds after a close, season-opening 41-34 loss to last year’s 4A runners-up Andover Central.
“Andover Central is a really good team and Newton hung with them,” Clark said. “It wasn’t until the last seconds that Central put the game away. Both teams were really good to watch on film. Andover does a lot of the same things we do and Newton was able to slow them down. They had a bunch of defensive stops and goal-line stands.”
The Railers are led by their quarterback Ben Schmidt who went 19-34 for 280 yards. He threw three touchdowns and two crucial interceptions in the first half which were taken back for touchdowns.
They also have a strong running attack led by Kenyon Forest who had 150 yards on 18 carries along 56 yards receiving and a touchdown.
Lastly, wide receiver Peyton Maxwell, who leads a talented pass-catching group for Newton, caught the other two of Schmidt’s touchdowns along with racking up 195 receiving yards and a 47-yard flea-flicker touchdown pass.
Clark also noted that Newton’s defense has vastly improved compared to last season.
“They have some linebackers that fly around and safeties that fly around and their d-line unit is a little bigger than it was last year,” Clark said.
Derby had little issue with Newton last season as they plowed through the Railers 63-7.