The numbers in Smiths Station's season-opening victory over Americus-Sumter (Ga.) last Friday spoke volumes.
They told a story bigger than the fact that the offense led the way in the 38-13 win. They told that, while many have assumed the defense would shoulder the load while the offense settles in, this isn't a long-term project.
There may be growing pains and there may be some hiccups along the way, but the Panthers' aerial attack is getting off the ground early and may make this an even more complete football team than advertised.
Junior quarterback Dalton Sinquefield passed for 433 yards and four touchdowns in his first start for Smiths Station last Friday, putting up passing numbers that could rival any in the Bi-City.
He completed 24 of 33 passes and had scoring strikes of 59, 39, 11 and 9 yards.
According to a press release from the AHSAA, which named Sinquefield its prep spotlight for Week 1, it was just the 36th 400-yard passing game in AHSAA history and ranks 24th all-time. Only twice did a quarterback pass the 400-yard mark in 2013.
When new coach Jason Dukes, whose team hosts Dothan on Friday night, said before the season that he didn't think it was fair to assume the defense would carry the offense early in the season, this is what he was talking about.
"Everyone talks about how the defense is going to lead us, but I think we have something to prove too," Sinquefield said on Monday. "I think we want to prove that the offense is good too and we can lead the defense sometimes."
The offense returned just one starter from last season compared to seven on defense. The defense features a lot of talent, including four-star senior recruit Amonte Caban and South Alabama commit Nigel Lawrence.
The offense doesn't feature those recognizable, established names, but Friday's performance illustrated Dukes' point that this offense can and needs to be good enough to make Smiths Station a more complete football team.
There were mistakes, most notably the three first-half turnovers. Sinquefield tossed a pair of interceptions and there was one fumble running the ball. Dukes said Sinquefield's miscues were an error in judgment and an underthrow.
"Both correctable errors," he said. "All the mistakes that we made are things we can fix, so that's encouraging."
Despite the enormous production right off the bat, Dukes said he's not concerning himself with the on-field results. Channelling his inner Nick Saban, the coach said it was all about the process.
"We were pleased with the effort we gave," he said. "Not always the result. But the key to being successful is to be more process-oriented than results-oriented. If you do that, the product will take care of itself."
Still, for those on the outside, Friday's offensive outburst is interesting.
Given the number of seniors the team lost from last year's team and the fact it is breaking in a new head coach after the departure of former coach Mark Rose, a bit of a return to Earth could have been expected.
With a defense as talented as the Panthers and an offense that is showing its explosiveness, though, the outlook may have shifted immediately.
"We're still learning and adding more," Sinquefield said. "Once we settle in, I think we can be really good."