The day before spring practice began, Lakeside coach Jarrett Troxler received some unexpected news.
Defensive coordinator Kenneth Baker announced he was departing to become the linebackers coach at Berry College. An offensive-minded coach in recent years, Troxler elected to switch to the other side of the ball for this season.
“I’ve got a good base of defense,” said Troxler, who worked as a defensive assistant for five years at Anson County High School (N.C.) before becoming the offensive coordinator at Lakeside in 2007.
“My experience on defense is what made me a successful offensive coordinator.”
After making playoff appearances the past two seasons, Lakeside is looking to break through on the state level. To do so, the Panthers will have to improve on defense.
Lakeside went 5-6 last year, giving up 26 or more points in each defeat. All six losses were to teams that advanced to the playoffs.
“We had problems stopping the run,” junior cornerback B.J. Raymond said. “This year, we’re faster. We should fly to the ball more. We’re more athletic.”
Before Baker departed, Troxler spoke with him about switching from a base 4-3 defense to a 3-4. Troxler said the move makes perfect sense with his team lacking quality depth on the defensive line.
“You’ve always got to find that fifth and sixth guy, and it’s tough here,” he said. “We changed because of personnel.”
Troxler is reminding his team of the 2009 season, when Lakeside’s defense proved to be the best in school history, allowing just 39 points through 11 games.
The Panthers advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time, losing to Westside-Macon
“That defense was special because they played so hard,” Troxler said. “Of course we were sound in scheme. But if you get a bunch of kids who believe in your system and they’ll run to the ball and they’ll be excited about playing defense, you’re going to be good.”
This year’s defense, led by Raymond, senior linebacker Daniel Cotty, senior defensive end Kendall White and junior safety Rashad Roundtree, is looking to play like the one in 2009 instead of the one last year.
Cotty said he’s been encouraged by the 50-60 players who regularly attended summer weight-room
“When we played teams like Northside (Warner-Robins) or Warner Robins, physically we couldn’t hang with them,” Cotty said. “So we put an emphasis on getting stronger and