In his third season as coach of the Fairbanks High School football team, Morgan Cotter is turning his players into work horses.

In his third season as coach of the Fairbanks High School football team, Morgan Cotter is turning his players into work horses.

Last season, the Panthers went 8-2 overall and won the North West Central Conference at 7-0.

But they couldn't follow up their playoff berth in 2007, when they finished 9-2 after losing to West Jefferson in the first round.

Instead, Fairbanks finished 11th in the Division V, Region 20 computer ratings with 12.45 points. The final postseason spot went to East Clinton, which was eighth with13.20 points.

Still, 2008 was a good season with a 34-player roster. This season, the Panthers have just 37 out.

To combat his team's lack of depth, Cotter uses tactics to help his team avoid fourth-quarter fatigue.

"What we try to do is find some one-and-a-half way players," he said. "We get kids to start on one side of the ball, and instead of also starting on the other side, they act as a fill-in guy."

Those "one-and-a-half way players" should be a major key to the success of this year's team, especially in helping keep a talented offensive line fresh.

"When it comes to a crucial time, a lot of our offensive line players are going to be on the field, but we like to get them off the field in the second or third quarter so they have enough gas to play in the fourth," Cotter said.

The Panthers will be looking for new leadership on offense after losing quarterback and three-year starter Stephen DeRoads, among others. DeRoads, who also was a standout defensive back, was first-team all-NWCC.

Also missing from the wing-T offense are four members of the offensive line, including first-team all-league performers Kyle Jacobs (center) and Zack Merrill (guard), and running backs Tyler Boerger and Ryan Repogle.

"Offensively, our goal is always to eliminate turnovers and get three or four yards per down," Cotter said. "We look for more than that, but if we can do those things, we are going to be successful."

The line will be anchored by senior Adam Barr (6-foot-3, 265 pounds), who was a first-team all-league pick at tackle a year ago.

Back at running back is junior Nick Gibson, who was second-team all-league. Also hoping to contribute in the backfield are seniors Corbin Ledley and Jared Repogle and junior Gage Barton.

"We are not a big-play team," Cotter said. "We turn some situations into big plays, but we look to control the football, and defensively we force people to not make those big plays against us."

On defense, the Panthers lost standout linebacker Aaron Anderson, a first-team pick. Anderson also played on the offensive line and was the kicker.

Expected to lead the 4-3 scheme are senior linebacker Ian Flagg and classmate Jimmy Alderman on the line. Both were first-team all-league. Also returning are senior Tyler Smith and Gibson in the defensive backfield. Smith was second-team all-league.

Others expected to contribute are senior linebacker Austin Clarridge and junior nose guard Joey Rogers (5-10, 265).

Fairbanks lost two of its first three last season before rolling through the NWCC unbeaten.

The Panthers finished ahead of Waynesfield-Goshen (6-1), Upper Scioto Valley (4-3), DeGraff Riverside (4-3), Lima Perry (3-4), Marion Catholic (2-5), Yellow Springs (2-5) and Ridgeway Local Ridgemont (0-7) .

Yellow Springs is no longer in the league. Fostoria St. Wendelin will play in the NWCC in football only.