By Harrison Tarr
For the Observer
For the last time in 2021, the Friday night lights shined brightly at T.C. Britton Field in Smiths Station, Alabama, last week when the hometown Panthers fell 31-25 in a heartbreaking loss to the Stanhope Elmore Mustangs.
The silver and black had a plethora of opportunities to win what proved to be a back-and-forth contest for all 48 minutes but eventually fell short on the potentially game-winning drive when the Mustangs intercepted a pass in the end zone, effectively ending the game.
Following the conclusion of his team’s 2021 campaign, head coach Mike Glisson did not focus on the miscues which ultimately cost his team the game. He did not harp on the failed game-winning drive. The leader of the Panthers did not mention the in-game results at all; he was simply thankful to have been able to coach his guys this year.
“I’m very proud of them,” Glisson said. “I’m going to miss this group of seniors. These kids battle. They don’t give up, they don’t give in. They just continue to battle and they continue to get better.”
The head coach continued to praise his squad for not quitting on themselves and for maintaining what he claims to be a continually positive outlook on a weekly basis.
“They work, they get better, they continue to have great attitudes,” Glisson said. “That’s a tribute to them, their parents, the community, the whole nine yards.”
Regardless of the outcome week-in and week-out, Glisson is pleased with how his team handled itself over the course of the season.
“You just gotta say you’re proud of them for what they do and how they carry themselves,” Glisson said. “We wish we would have won a few more football games, heck yeah, but the thing about that is we had chances to win a few of them and — for whatever reason — it just didn’t happen.”
With the 2021 chapter now behind the silver and black, all focus turns to reloading and preparing for 2022.
“We aren’t going to hang our heads,” Glisson said. “We’re going to go back to work and try to get better.”
Player development begins after Glisson gives his seniors the farewell they have earned through their time put in for the program. For those who wish to continue their football career post-graduation, he has his attention turned in helping them do so.
“We’ll celebrate these seniors,” Glisson said. “Try to help them try to find somewhere to go play if they want to do so, that’s what my next few weeks will be: sending out tapes.”
With the senior class no longer part of the plans for the future, the Panthers will attempt to fill key roles — namely those left behind by wide receivers Amari Peabody and Cianan Williams — and turn to an experienced group of underclassmen going forward.
“We’ve got to fill in some holes and we’ve got to get better,” Glisson said. “We’re missing some big key parts but we’ve got a lot back. We played a lot of young kids, played a lot of sophomores, especially on defense.”
Glisson is encouraged by the experience of his young core.
“When you’ve got sophomores playing, you’ve got a chance,” Glisson said. “We’re going to get better and the team is going to get better.”
When the clock hit double zeros in Smiths Station on Friday night, the Panthers’ season officially reached its conclusion.
The seniors will not strap up for the black and silver again next year and new faces will take over the team in 2022. The future of Smiths Station football is a story not yet written; according to Glisson, the next chapter is one to look forward to.