KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)- The Stone Memorial Panthers went 6-5 last season with a first-round 4A playoff berth. The Panthers were a young football team, starting 11-12 sophomores last season. Stone Memorial head football coach Derik Samber is excited to see how this team can take the next step.

“How they mature and grow will set the ceiling/expectation for us,” said Samber. “It starts with winning the first one. If you plan past that you’re planning for failure.”

The Panthers return the majority of their skill positions including rising senior starting quarterback Hunter Heavilon.

“He’s made some really big strides,” said Samber. “To see him grow each day with his reads and progressions, accelerate his thinking and timing, and where he goes with the football. It’s a big year for him, we’re excited to have a returning senior quarterback.”

Heavilon is a dual-threat quarterback and racked up around 600 rushing yards last season.

“If he doesn’t like what he says downfield he can always take off,” said Samber. “But we want to see him trust the concept and go with his progression and finish the play when we allow him to drop back and throw it.”

Heavilon’s ability to use his legs to extend plays has his teammate drawing comparisons to NFL quarterback Lamar Jackson.

“He’s really diverse,” said Panthers center Jack Delk. “You have Lamar Jackson, I’d say he’s more of that type he’s fast out of the pocket, he can run the ball, he can pass the ball.”

Stone Memorial opens the season hosting Lenoir City in a battle of the Panthers. Kick-off is set for 7:00 PM on Friday, August 19.