They had a 15th district championship in reach late last season, but Stanberry ended their season in the quarterfinals the second straight year.
Now the Panthers are hoping to reclaim their place in the 275 Conference."We have to be so aggressive this year to get anywhere," senior offensive lineman and linebacker Colton Smith said. "We're not guaranteed anything."
Mound city graduated its leading passer, rusher and receiver from a season ago, so they will rely on smashmouth football from the guys up front to move the ball.
"Last year we didn't have the size comparison to what we do this year, so we just have to bulldog everybody. We're just going to come out head up."
"That's our only hope. Our speed and our playmakers went out the door last year, so what we have is a big, hopefully rough and tough team," head coach Brian Messer said. "We'll try to play to our strength, and that should be our strength.
The purple and gold have some added depth this year too as Mound City and Craig enter into the first year of a co-op. The transition from Hornets to Panthers has appeared seamless.
"They've been very helpful. I mean, they just come in, want to listen and get better everyday," senior quarterback and defensive back Hayden Marrs said. "I think they'll come out ready to fight every game.
They're welcoming the newest Panthers as they try to return to the top of the 275 for the first time since 2009, and with the success of teams like Sanberry and recent additions to the conference in Rock Port and Albany, they feels like staying under the radar.
"We've kind of used that as a rallying cry," Messer said. "If we do anything, it's going to be a surprise to most, so it's a good position to be in. And our kids are really excited to represent Mound City."
The Panthers open the season against East Atchison, a co-op between Tarkio and Fairfax, on August 22.
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