MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Next up on WKRG’s “33 Teams in 33 Days” spring special is the Murphy Panthers.

WKRG sports director Simone Eli and weekend sports anchor Gerhard Mathangani provide an inside look into the Panthers, who enter the season with a new head coach. Justin Hannah was approved by the Mobile County School Board in late March. He has moved quickly to establish the culture within his new program.

Hannah brings instant credibility after a stellar playing career. He was a multi-sport star at West End High School (Birmingham) where he played football, basketball and ran track. Hannah captured All-State honors in 2006. He went on to have a dynamic collegiate career at Tuskegee. Hannah was a four-year starter and recorded 18 interceptions. The three-time All-American was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2011. He later played six seasons in the Arena Football League. As Hannah takes over a new program, he is setting the cornerstones with proven core values.

“The mindset is three things,” said Hannah. “Commitment, dedication and discipline. We will be committed to the cause, will be dedicated to the cause, and we’re going to be disciplined to the cause. There’s a standard and there’s a new day here at Murphy High School.”

The 35-year-old has an upbeat demeanor and often joins his players in practice drills. Hannah wants to demonstrate to his team how to play to their full potential.

“I try to get after it with them so they’ll know that I’m with them,” said Hannah. “I need them to see me work as just as hard. I want them to see that I’ve bought into it and I need them to buy into it as well. It is all about trust.”

2022 Record (notable wins, losses):

  • 2-7
  • 47-20 win vs. Robertsdale
  • 22-18 win vs. Baldwin County

Key players:

  • James Holbrook, QB
  • Jaylon Edney, WR
  • Matthew Stallworth, OL/DL

Edney was a dynamic playmaker for the Panthers last season. He tallied more than 1,000 all-purpose yards and scored eight total touchdowns. Edney will be a vital weapon for returning quarterback James Holbrook. The rising senior posted six touchdown passes last season as a junior. Meanwhile, the Panthers return a key player in the trenches as Matthew Stallworth enters his senior season. Stallworth recorded 34 tackles and three sacks last season. The players are leaning Hannah’s new style and embracing what it takes to improve.

“We’ve all been really conditioning getting in shape,” said Stallworth. “We’ve been going through drills to see what everybody can do and hopefully get ready for the spring game and next fall season.”

There are a lot of players on both sides of the ball that have experience from last season. The leaders at Murphy are hoping they use it to fuel a strong run.

“(We have) a lot of returning guys, we’ve got a good receiver corps, good offensive line and good running back corps,” added Holbrook. “We’ve got a brand new coaching staff and last year we didn’t get a start early like this, so we’re now starting early. We’re getting spring training and we have a spring game this year, so we should be getting a lot of experience with this.”

Murphy is scheduled to play a spring game against Greene County at Southern Miss.

Key Matchups:

  • vs. Saraland (region game) – September 1
  • @ McGill-Toolen (region game) – September 22
  • @ Baldwin County (region game) – October 20

Link to full schedule.

Who’s next:

Monday will feature the Mobile Christian Leopards. Follow along WKRG’s “33 teams in 33 days” throughout the next five weeks. Each team will be featured during the 6:30 p.m. newscast on the weekdays and during the 10 p.m. newscast on the weekend.

Full “33 teams in 33 days” schedule: