GRIFFITH — The Griffith football team has a tough schedule for the 2019 season, and former offensive coordinator and first-year coach Adam Musielak, who was promoted last month, is ready for the challenge.

He replaces Ben Geffert, who is now the offensive coordinator at Munster, and views his team’s schedule as an opportunity to grow. The Times No. 9 Panthers face Michigan City on the road in their season-opener on Aug. 23 and will take on Valparaiso, Hobart and Lowell in the following weeks.

“Obviously, we’ll have test after test against great opponents and really solid football teams, but all that’s going to do is make us better,” Musielak said. “We can look at rankings here and there, but I’ve told them all summer long that we’re going to worry more about what we do and not about the people on the other sideline.”

Musielak believes that his players will have an opportunity to compete against any team if they remain focused on their specific tasks, and that mindset starts with quarterback Carson Crowe. The junior is entering his second season as the Panthers’ starting quarterback and is poised to have a big year.

Last season, Crowe threw 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions and completed 77 of 154 pass attempts for 1,066 yards. He also rushed for 794 yards and 11 touchdowns on 106 carries. Coming into this year, he plans to cut down on his turnovers and continue his progression as a dual-threat quarterback.

As the focal point of his team’s offense, Crowe admitted that his goal of improving won’t come easy. But after working on reading defenses better and tweaking his throwing mechanics, he’s confident he can give the Panthers a chance to build on their 8-3 finish in 2018.

When Crowe was inserted as a starter last season, Griffith rebounded from an 0-2 start and went on an eight-game winning streak before losing to Lowell in the Class 4A sectional semifinals. The Panthers never led in the 45-14 loss, and the defeat has been a lesson for Crowe, who threw an interception and lost a fumble in the final game of the year.

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“When we’re down, we just gotta fight through the adversity,” Crowe said. “We gotta make big plays happen and not fumble the ball. On crucial downs, we can't mess up.”

In addition to Crowe, Griffith's season-ending loss also sticks with Ryan Davenport. The senior linebacker and offensive lineman broke his right collarbone against the Red Devils and wasn’t able to finish the game. Now that he’s back fully healthy, he looks forward to another match-up against Lowell in Week Four.

“I’m really excited to play Lowell again,” Davenport said. “It’s always really competitive and that really makes you want to play them even more. It’ll be fun to face them in the Inferno for the third year in a row.”

Davenport is the Panthers' top returning tackler, and he hopes to increase his total in what will most likely be his final season of organized football. He recorded 50 tackles — including six tackles for loss, one sack and one safety — last year and expects to have a better season after working on his stamina.

Since he plays on both sides of the ball, Davenport rarely comes off of the field, and Musielak thinks his IQ is just as commendable as his endurance. He called Davenport one of his smartest players and also complimented him for being a well-rounded student athlete. Aside from football, he is also a member of the drama club, robotics club, class council and the National Honor Society.

The senior said he enjoys being involved with his school and community but made it clear that over the next few months his main focus will be on the gridiron.

“Everyone is saying we have a tough schedule, and I’m just hoping we can show that we’re still a team and we can play with anybody — even if some people think we can’t,” said Davenport, who is the senior class president. "We're guaranteed 10 games, but we can have more if we keep going."

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Lake County Sports Reporter

James Boyd is the Lake County prep sports reporter for The Times. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a proud native of Romeoville, Illinois. Before anything else, his main goal in life is to spread love and light.