Within the last twenty-one months, East High School has seen 7 head coaching changes within their three team sports for boys. The basketball team saw their longtime leader Mark Cherol step down during last off-season. Dennis Simmons took over the reins as the coach of the Panthers’ hoops program. In baseball – Eric Pellegrini finished his second year as the skipper since replacing Nick Horvath. Onto the football team, P.J. Mays will be the third head coach of the Panthers in as many years (Jim Vivo & Brian Shaner).
The former standout runner for East in the late-1990s went onto become the Gateway Offensive Player of the Year for Youngstown State in 2001. Since he left One University Plaza, Mays has been an assistant at Chaney and at Struthers.
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A year ago, East played against six teams who advanced to the post-season. Their last three contests were against schools who finished with a combined 25-9 record (St. Thomas Aquinas, Poland, Niles).
This year, the Panthers open up the season with back-to-back home games against Lakeside (1-9) and Lincoln West (0-9).
2013 East Panthers’ Football Preview
By Vince Pellegrini (@Vince_MYVS)
Head Coach: P.J. Mays, 1st season (0-0)
2012 Record: 3-7, Independent
2012 Post-Season Finish: Did Not Qualify
2012 Team Statistics
Points Scored: 18.1 (47th in Area)
Points Allowed: 25.9 (41st in Area)
Aug. 30 – Lakeside, 7 PM
Sept. 6 – Lincoln West, 7 PM
Sept. 13 – at Westlake, 7 PM
Sept. 20 – at New Philadelphia, 7 PM
Sept. 27 – Canton Central Catholic, 7 PM
Oct. 4 – at Fitch, 7:30 PM
Oct. 11 – at Canfield, 7 PM
Oct. 18 – at St. Thomas Aquinas, 7 PM
Oct. 25 – at Poland, 7 PM
Nov. 1 – at Niles, 7 PM
Offensive Strength: With Coach Mays at the helm, one has to believe that he will find a more than serviceable running back to lead the offense this year.
Offensive Weakness: Since the new East High reopened their doors in 2007, the team has struggled to score points. The Panthers have only finished the season once with a higher scoring average than 18.5 (2007: 23.9). The running game lost their game breaker in Derek Tensley, who was named to the Northeast Inland All-District Second-Team a year ago. A revamped offensive line will be in store for the Panthers this year.
Defensive Strength: Despite the fact that East has allowed between 21 and 25 points per game in each of the last four years, the Panthers have the team speed to make opposing offensive coordinators think twice about calling certain plays. In 2007 (10.6) and 2008 (17.5), East’s defense was in the top 20 in points allowed among area teams both years.
Defensive Weakness: During the last five weeks of the 2012 season, the Panthers permitted three opponents to score 31 points or more. Prior to that stretch, it took 16 games to find three teams who scored 31 or more.
Storylines Facing the Panthers
1. Replacing Many Starters. Everywhere you look on the football field, you are bound to be able to locate a Panther who did not start last year. Last year, fourplayers were recognized on the Northeast Inland All-District teams: Derek Tensley (2nd-Team RB), Rhodell Franklin (2nd-Team DL), Jamir Humphrey (2nd-Team DB), and Rayfield Bell (Honorable Mention). Can East fill those holes with youth and inexperience?
2. Schedule Eases?East will play home to Lakeside and Lincoln West, who finished a combined 1-18 last fall. Then, the Panthers travel to take on two playoff teams in back-to-back weeks (Westlake & New Philadelphia). East finishes off the season with four straight road games including trips to Fitch, St. Thomas Aquinas, Poland and Niles. An easy schedule? Not a chance.
Did you know? In 1997, P.J. Mays led the East Golden Bears to their only playoff victory in school history. In the first round of the Division III playoffs East defeated Jackson, 20-14. The following week, the Golden Bears were turned away by their City Series-rival Chaney, 20-6.