Central seeks a new starting quarterback

Josh Brandt is the top candidate to succeed Josh Pairan, but he's also expected to start at inside linebacker.

INDEPENDENCE -- Even though the 2001 high school football season is months away, Central head coach Shane Hedrick already is faced with a perplexing situation.

The Panthers must replace departed quarterback Josh Pairan, who was the offensive MVP in the Capital Conference last season. The top candidate is senior-to-be Josh Brandt, who was Pairan's backup last season.

But Brandt also is perhaps the team's best returning linebacker, a position he started at last season.

"In a perfect world, you'd prefer not to have your starting quarterback playing inside linebacker, too," Hedrick said. "Maybe some other position. We've got to keep him on the field, but we'd like to have kids who can come in and spell him from time to time.

"His best position is linebacker. We'll probably keep him there and keep our fingers crossed. It's something that's been done before. A couple years ago Ashland won a state title, and their quarterback also played linebacker. One thing about Josh is he's a very durable athlete. He can take pain and play with pain."

The Panthers will deal with this and other issues during a week of practices from June 11-15. It should come as welcome relief to players who have been lifting weights and working out since the end of the 2000 season.

The workouts will be in full pads and will last about two and a half hours.

"We're real excited about it," Hedrick said. "It's an opportunity to go out after lifting weights all winter and start measuring our strength against our ability to move the line of scrimmage. It's a chance to measure our speed and agility. The kids are real excited. It's a combination of getting out of school and getting to play a little ball."

Pairan, of course, isn't the only Panther who won't return next season. Central also will miss linebacker-tight end Jeff Charleston, who was the league's defensive MVP and recently signed to play at Western Oregon. Other seniors who will be missed include running back Christian Jensen, linebacker Didier Urena and lineman Zach Halligan.

But that doesn't mean the cupboard is bare. The Panthers had a number of juniors who were significant contributors last season, including Brandt, running back Mike Connor, fullback-linebacker Matt Neiffer, linemen Tom Burton, Spencer Little and Shawn Denney. Jordan Pratt also was one of the team's top receivers as a sophomore.

"We have a pretty good number of kids registered for spring football," said Hedrick, who's approaching his third season as head coach. "This is probably the largest group we've had since I've been here. Our junior class, guys who will be seniors next year, has the most participants. We have close to 21, 22 guys who will be seniors next year."

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