QB Etzel has ball, hands to RB Etzel Football: North Carroll's Panthers, hoping to improve on consecutive 1-9 seasons, has two more pairs of brothers playing, too.

September 13, 1996|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

The quarterback and his kid brother are looking to make some noise in the North Carroll backfield this season.

When senior signal-caller John Etzel last played on the same team with his younger brother, Eric, a junior running back in the Panthers' wing-T offense, the two were just getting their start in football in the North Carroll rec league's C division in 1988. Together again, they're looking to get the most out of this season.

"It's a great thing, us both in the backfield. He's a great guy to be around," said Eric. "He makes me feel comfortable and shows me what needs to be done."

The Panthers got plenty done in their opener on Saturday, coming away with a 34-7 win over Francis Scott Key, whose teams have given them plenty of problems in recent years.

John threw for 130 yards and two touchdowns, and Eric, used mostly as a blocker, made the most of his five carries by gaining 60 yards.

"We knew they outscored us 67-0 in the last three years, but we didn't care," John said. "We went in care-free and just played as hard as we can. With the win, the confidence shot up."

John and Eric have taken separate paths to get to this point. John is in his third varsity season, having played safety as a sophomore before taking over as quarterback last year. The Panthers have gone 1-9 in the past two seasons.

Eric is among a group of players up from last year's 5-3 JV. The mesh is working well so far.

"Last year was a learning year for me. Whatever I did was building blocks for this year," John said. "Our offensive line is much better this year. They lifted [weights] all summer, the backs lifted all summer -- everyone is stronger and faster, and bTC that's what it takes."

Eric, one of three new running backs starting as juniors, said the JV success has been a big lift in his adjustment to the higher level.

"When you have a feeling you're going to win, you're one step closer," he said. "Coming up to varsity this season, we know we can win. Everyone has a positive attitude," he said.

John sees the new-found confidence everywhere.

"The practices have been good, real hard with everyone giving 100 percent. That helps out a lot, because when it comes to Friday night, everyone is giving more than 100 percent," he said.

"We just want to keep playing to our ability and set a good example for the kids behind us."

John's maturity at quarterback has been the key, and it's something North Carroll coach Bill Rumbaugh expects to continue.

"He's been through the bad parts -- two 1-9 seasons -- so he's certainly motivated," Rumbaugh said. "His experience is really showing now. He's doing a much better job of handling the ball, and he's a leader back there. He said he feels like he's seeing the field better than he's ever [seen it], and that's just experience. He's our centerpiece."

Eric's contributions also are found on defense, where he plays the strong-safety position his brother once played. That enables John to concentrate solely on his duties as quarterback.

"Eric's a real good athlete. With the entire trio of running backs, attitude has been their biggest contribution. They've meshed well and work off each other. Eric's job is primarily to block, but we'll continue to get him the ball five or six times a game."

The Etzels are one of three pairs of brothers on the North Carroll team. The others are senior twins Vince (tight end and linebacker) and Tim (offensive guard and linebacker) Heckler, and senior Chad Crowl (split end and cornerback), and his younger brother Adam, another of the junior running backs.

"It's nice to have. They leave practice every day, and after, they're still talking about football," Rumbaugh said.

Pub Date: 9/13/96

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