NAUGATUCK – When you are coming off a state championship season you usually have a target on your back.
Tug Valley Coach Garland “Rabbit” Thompson probably feels that way. He saw his Panthers win the Class AA state title back in March.
He would like to see them go back to back, but it will be a little different this season. Due to the realignment figures, Tug Valley High School drops down to Class A this season.
Tug Valley opens its season Tuesday night at Huntington St. Joe.
Thompson and his staff return a strong nucleus of three senior guards who have started for two seasons and are heading into their final high school campaign.
Mikey Newsome, Austin Brewer and Aaron Muncy return from that state championship team. But, like ravenous Panthers, they are hungry for more. They would like to bring another trophy back to Naugatuck.
Newsome and Brewer were all-state selections last spring.
The Panthers lost several good players to graduation, including 3-year starter 6-foot-9 Mason Pack. He was also an all-state member last season.
But Thompson has several other players that will be vying for playing time. Senior Corey Dillon, a 6-foot-4 post player, and junior Thomas Baisden, a 6-foot-2 forward should see playing time. Others include senior guard Josh White, junior Ethan Hager and sophomores Hayden Sturgell, Austin Baisden and Jeff Kitchen.
“We should be quicker this year,” Thompson said of his squad. “But we have a tough schedule.”
“We’ve been working hard in practice,” he added. “We’ve really been conditioning and working on fundamentals.”
“You can’t rest on your laurels,” Thompson added. “We want to win, but we know we have to pay the price and get better each day in practice.”
After being idle last week, the Panthers will play three games to get their feet wet this week. After the St. Joe game on Tuesday, they will travel to Cross Lanes Christian on Friday and play host to Westside for their first home game of the season on Saturday.
Thompson would love to see Tug Valley repeat, but he knows it won’t be an easy road.