East’s Fitzgerald anchors O-line

East senior John Fitzgerald knows one fact. He doesn’t want to go through another 1-9 season.

The 6-foot, 270-pound offensive left tackle has been hitting the weight room with the rest of his teammates, trying to bulk up for this season.

The Panthers open at Ashtabula Lakeside on Thursday, Aug. 28.

“Last year we went through a rough season,” Fitzgerald said. “When I went to the weight room this season, I had a chip on my shoulder. I still got the chip. Kickoff that Thursday night, I’m ready to play.”

East coach P.J. Mays said linemen like Fitzgerald need that certain swagger to be successful.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that he has a good center of gravity.

“Offensive line, confidence is one of the traits you have,” Mays said. “It feels like he should be able to withstand or handle any charge that comes at you or any rush that comes at you.

“He’s really strong. Once he gets locked in, he feels like he can hold whoever he needs to in front of him – keep him in front and be able to work that guy down the field as far as run blocking or keep him in front of him, not let him get penetration on the passing game.”

Last year the team went through some growing pains with a first-year coach and trying to learn new schemes.

This season, it’s much different.

“We got a lot stronger, a lot better knowing plays and what we’re supposed to do, knowing our assignments and the experience of playing. We know what to expect this year,” Fitzgerald said.

The Panthers expect to be a better team this season.

You can bet Fitzgerald will be there leading that charge. He said he wants to “earn respect, just get respect for the program, respect for myself, showcase my abilities.”