Panthers eyeing possible playoff spot as regular season nears end

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Nease rebounded from its tough loss to St. Augustine with a resounding 41-14 win against Englewood last Friday.

The Panthers (5-4) close out the regular season at 7 p.m. Friday at Bartram Trail, and still have a shot at making the postseason.

“We are excited about the opportunity to earn our way into the playoffs,” Nease coach Tim Krause said. “There are a ton of scenarios of things that could or could not happen, but we are just focused on earning our way in by winning this week.”

The Bears are 6-3 this season and averaging 40 points per game, led by standout quarterback Joey Gatewood.

“Bartram is a really talented and well-coached team, and it will be a great atmosphere,” Krause said. “Every time we play an in-county rival, there is a lot on the line, but for us it doesn’t change how hard we work or how we prepare. Our kids have worked extremely hard for 10 months, and are excited to play Bartram.”

The Panthers celebrated Senior Night in last week’s game against Englewood, and will be losing several standouts after graduation, including tight end Zach Sheffer and running back Jareem Westcott.

Sheffer, who had 58 yards receiving and a touchdown last Friday, is committed to LSU, and plans to enroll early and possibly play for the Tigers as a true freshman, according to Gridiron Now.

Westcott rushed for 106 yards and four TDs against Englewood and is ranked fifth in the state in Class 6A with 1,318 rushing yards.

“Jareem has had a great season and has attracted attention from a number of FBS, FCS and Division II programs,” Krause said. “He will definitely get a chance at the next level and is evaluating his options to find the best fit academically and athletically.”

Nease has shown improvement from last season, when it finished 2-7 and 1-4 in District 4-6A, and Krause credits the cohesiveness and resiliency of the players.

“The highlight has been how great our locker room has been and how tight our team has been this year through the ups and downs of the season.” Krause said. “We have a special group of kids that have made it fun to come to work every day.” 

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