VYPE Houston Region
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VYPE 5A -- No. 5 The Klein Oak Panthers
July 16, 2012VYPE MAGAZINE - North Houston
The Klein Oak Panthers
Panthers Try to Reclaim Title
Head Coach: David Smith
2011 Overall Record: 9-4
Postseason: Regional Semi-Finalist
By Austin Staton
CUTLINE: Reid Najvar, Larenzo Stewart, Joshua Mabin and Ja’Von Shelley look to repeat in 2012.
High school football has a funny way of creating stars from the unlikeliest of places. Last season for the Klein Oak Panthers, that star came in the form of a 5-foot-10 reserve quarterback, Conner McQueen.
Unbeknownst to the City of Houston, McQueen would prove himself to be one of the area’s breakout stars as he led the Panthers to a 9-4 record and a berth in the regional semifinals before ultimately falling to the nation’s top-ranked team in Dallas Skyline. On the season, McQueen averaged 220-plus passing yards per game and totaled 18 passing touchdowns, complimented by 780 yards on the ground with eight scores.
But for the Panthers, McQueen graduated alongside fellow senior standouts Nicky Bartti (Notre Dame), A.J. Hilliard (TCU) and a total of 50 lettermen and 16 starters. Needless to say, the 2012 version of the Panthers will look much differently from their predecessor.
For head coach David Smith, only four of his offensive starters return while he must find a way to replace nine starters on the defensive side of the ball. For most programs, that might seem like a tall task. However, despite the strength and competiveness of district 13-5A, the Panthers are expected to simply reload and compete for a district championship.
Perhaps the most dangerous weapon for the Panthers will come in the form of 5-foot-6 junior tailback Larenzo Stewart who burst onto the scene last year to the tune of nearly 1,400 rushing yards, including 530 yards on the ground in just three playoff appearances. With 12 rushing touchdowns to his credit last season, Stewart should contend for the district’s offensive MVP award as he possesses plus speed with the ability to cut sharply in-and-out of blocks to leave defenders in the dust.
Creating those holes for Stewart is senior team leader, Reid Najvar. The brother of preseason all-Big 12 performer Jordan Najvar, Reid is an athletic offensive linemen with an impressive 6-foot-4, 290-pound, frame with offers from the Air Force Academy, FIU, New Mexico and Texas State. Alongside Najvar is an athletic line with Kevin Greif and Broede Wheeler that should help protect a new QB, likely Michael Trotter.
Also competing for the starting signal caller will be move-in Jordan Davis from Wheaton-Warrenville South (Illinois), who is ranked as one of the better dual-threat quarterbacks in the class of 2014.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Panthers will rely on a pair of talented juniors in LB Josh Mabin and DE Ja’Von Shelley. Mabin, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound inside linebacker already holds an offer from Oklahoma State and should create havoc for opposing offenses with his speed and knack for finding the ball as he notched 60-plus tackles as a sophomore. Not to be outdone, Shelley, who totaled 60-plus tackles as well, will create pressure on the end with his 6-foot-2 frame and quickness.
In 2011, Klein Oak overcame adversity and used their senior leadership to make a deep run in the state playoffs. Despite their youth, the Panthers feature a load of talent that is athletic and expects nothing more than to win a district championship.
To compete for the district crown, the Panthers will have to find stability in the quarterback position – whether it is Trotter or Davis – in order to relieve the pressure off of Stewart. Defensively, the Panthers will break in a total of nine new starters and most capitalize on their skillset to come together as a productive and cohesive unit.
8/31 Langham Creek