With an explosive big play offense, the Panthers have had little trouble moving the ball in the early going. Maumee has outscored its first three undermanned foes 164-12. The Panthers enter the Northern Lakes League opener tonight against Northview undefeated.
Elusive senior quarterback Jake Goatley spearheads a spread offense that can pick up yards in big chunks. Goatley, who is a threat with his legs and arm, has already thrown for 507 yards and eight touchdowns.
"We know there are a lot of good teams to come," Goatley said. "We want to get better every week, so that when it gets cold we're playing our best football."
Maumee coach John Boles said he is not big on setting season goals. He said focusing on the little things and attention to detail are imperative in his philosophy.
"You prepare everyday to compete at the highest level," he said. "We want to be playing at a championship level in the league and continue that into the playoffs. We want to go deep in the playoffs."
Boles said he has been particularly pleased with the development of his offensive line in easy wins over Waite (51-0), Woodward (65-0) and Bowsher (48-12).
"They're not big. But they're technically sound and they're hard workers," Boles said. "And we have some real nice perimeter players. We have a number of kids that can make plays."
Junior running back Eric Long leads the team in rushing with 236 yards on 38 carries. Long, 5-11 and 180 pounds, also has a team-leading seven touchdowns.
"We're a three-headed monster," Long said. "The running backs get the job done. The wide receivers make big plays. And our quarterback moves fast, has great vision and throws the ball well."
Long said he has a special deal with his linemen.
"I go and buy them candy," Long said. "If they do their jobs, we all eat candy. I owe it all to them."
The charismatic Long said Goatley (5-9, 155 pounds) deserves his new nickname, "Spider legs."
"He's our George S. Patton. He's the field general," Long said. "He gets his message across. He makes you want to do better."
Although eight different players have scored TDs for Maumee, senior wideout Damon Contat has been the primary beneficiary of Goatley's stellar play. Contat has a team-high 13 catches for 203 yards and three scores.
"It's a blast," Contat said. "Not too many teams throw the ball all over. We have a big play offense. Our whole perimeter players are fast."
Goatley also has rushed for 127 yards on 19 carries and sophomore Jake Schneider has rushed for 114 yards and four TDs. Senior Jon Hall has 10 catches for 127 yards.
"It's a lot of fun being the quarterback in this offense," Goatley said. "We spread the ball all around. I have the ball in my hands every play and I get to make decisions. We have a lot of people on this team that can make plays."
Boles pointed out that Goatley only started eight full games last year but still threw for a league-leading 2,106 yards and 18 touchdowns.
"He's a good decision maker and he's a tough kid. He's an attention-to-detail person," Boles said. "He doesn't make bad plays."
Defensively, Boles said his linebackers Chris Rogge, Anthony Chambers and Evan Karchner are returning starters and have been very good.
"We'll depend on them to be better than average," Boles said. "They are all-league type people."
Boles stressed his Panthers will find out more about themselves as league play begins.
"We need to stay hungry and not get caught up in what we've already done," Boles said. "If the kids continue to get better and they play at that level, certainly [an NLL title] is our goal. We want to be in that position year after year."
Maumee, which last won a league title in 2001, went 8-2 last season but failed to qualify for the playoffs after dropping its regular-season finale to NLL champion Southview. The Panthers qualified for the postseason four straight seasons from 2001-04.
"Every person on the field wants to leave a legacy behind," Contat said. "After going 8-2 last year and not making the playoffs, we're ready for a bigger year."
With two-time defending champion Southview (1-2) stumbling out of the gate, the race for the NLL title appears up for grabs.
"We know the league is wide open. We take every game seriously," Goatley said.
Long said the team has taken its motto, "What's important now," to heart. In fact a sticker on the back of the Panthers' helmets spells out the acronym W.I.N.
"You have to pay attention to detail," Long said. "It's all the film work. It's all the things you do in practice. The small things earn the big things."
Goatley said the key to peaking when the air turns crisp and the leaves have fallen is to get better every week in games and at practice. "For the seniors, this is our last year and we want to leave on a high note," Goatley said. "We want to win a lot of games and go deep in the playoffs."
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