Faced with dwindling participation numbers and an inexperienced roster, Hillcrest showed some resiliency last season. The Panthers remained in contention for a playoff spot in District 11-5A up until the regular-season finale, when they lost to Kimball. Considering Hillcrest managed just two victories the previous year, it was a step in the right direction.
“We were fortunate to be in the hunt for a playoff spot until the end,” said Hillcrest head coach Andy Todd. “We got a couple more wins, which is a testament to how hard the kids worked.”
Although the roster remains thin, partially due to lower enrollment at the school as a whole, the Panthers hope to keep building this year. Todd is encouraged by participation in workouts during the summer.
Still, Hillcrest likely will field just one subvarsity squad again this season as it rebuilds depth within the program.
The Panthers should benefit from the return of dual-threat quarterback Eddie Lwate, who rushed for 10 touchdowns and threw for eight more as a junior last year.
The small senior class also should make an impact with players such as receiver Jose Diaz, defensive tackle Tyran Gooseberry, and linebacker Miguel Porter, a converted defensive end. Of course, Hillcrest will have several two-way athletes leading the charge.
“We’re going to be young. We’re not going to have a lot of varsity experience,” Todd said. “Our ultimate goal is to make the playoffs. We want to be playing for a playoff spot during the last week of the regular season.”