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Cassidy Kotte will take the wins where he can find them.
One example, the Parma football coach points to, came at a recent summer workout, where the Panthers had turnout of more than 30 kids. For a program that has gone through back-to-back 0-9 season and only has one non-forfeit win since the end of the 2017 season, that’s a number that makes Kotte happy.
Now the challenge is to maintain those type of numbers and use it to build a new culture at Parma.
“We don’t really know what we have, a lot of it is going to be seeing who shows up (the first day of practice) on Aug. 8,” said Kotte, who is in his second season with the Panthers. “People talk about this all the time, but we really are building a culture. I think we’re swimming upstream against the circumstances of having four different coaches in the five years prior to me. We’re just trying to build on some of the small positives.”
The numbers really hurt Parma late last season as the Panthers found themselves with just 12 full-time varsity players by the end of the season. It got so bad that Parma’s junior varsity team was only able to play two quarters in its final three games of the season, just so the varsity would have enough available players to field a team.
But as Kotte enters his second year, he said the focus is on continuing to build a foundation to keep the team improving
“Our expectations are to be competitive,” said Kotte. “It’s difficult to walk into a program that has arrived at such a depth. But we feel like with the attitude from the kids that are showing up and their willingness to work hard, that we have some pieces that might put us in position to turn the tide here and get that first win in three years. That’s something we talk about as a coaching staff, but really with the kids what we talk about is the changing work ethic and mindset regarding playing for each other.”
Parma returns just one player who was on last season’s All 3A-Snake River Valley Conference list. Senior Charlie Camacho was a second-team selection at running back and will be the featured back again this year. But the Panthers are hoping to build a stable of running backs around him.
“That’s someone we want to make sure we get the ball into his hands,” said Kotte. “He does a great job, he’s really an instinctive runner. That’s something we want to emphasize. But we’re really trying to put together an offense that allows multiple players in the backfield to get the football.”
With a small offensive line which Kotte says the Panthers are still working on building, Parma figures to be a heavy run first-team. Junior Joe Padilla is someone that Kotte anticipates playing on the line, but for the most part, he’s still waiting to see who else he can put there.
Junior Westin Osborne was the center on last year’s junior varsity team, but this year he will be the Panthers’ starter at quarterback. Kotte said the change in position was based on his leadership ability, which was the biggest thing he was looking for in a quarterback.
“We looked at him, not saying ‘that guy can really rip the football down the field,’ but he’s someone we want leading our huddle and leading our program,” Kotte said. “That’s what we really placed the premium on, as we’re trying to change the program culture wise. We’re really excited about the potential he brings.”
Junior Kooper Rowland returns as a wide receiver, while Braxton Heffelfinger and Josh Shaw are expected to develop into some bigger pass-catching roles.
On defense, Kotte expects to be strongest in the defensive backfield where he really likes the safeties the Panthers have. Heffelfinger will be in one of the safety positions and is someone who Kotte things can shine on that side of the ball. Cody Hartsock, Trenton Pierce and Camacho will also be in competition for the three safety positions.
“We’re a safety-heavy team,” said Kotte. “We’ll be running in the 4-2-5 system. We want to call it a 4-4, but there’s no way we can justify that because we don’t have outside linebackers. We’re really hoping to develop some aggressive play from those guys and the rest is unknown.”
Sophomore Michael Mikelson will be playing the SAM linebacker and is a player Kotte is excited to see develop both this year, and in the future.
Parma Panthers
Coach: Cassidy Kotte, second season
Coach Record: 0-9
Last Season: 0-9, 0-5 3A SRV
State Playoffs: Did not qualify
State titles: 1996, 2008-09
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