The Ebinport Panthers took the field first Saturday, leading the Carolina Panthers into Bank of America Stadium for the preseason opener against the New York Giants. The players, ages 9 and 10, were chosen in observance of the NFL's Youth Football Month. They had a better season last year than the professional Panthers did, going 7-2 and just missing the playoffs.
"It's just an awesome experience," said Tony Priscaro, the Ebinport Panthers coach, from the game.
Thirty of his players led the bigger Panthers onto the field. When it came time for the national anthem, they spread out single-file along the sidelines, and the Carolina Panthers lined up behind them.
For the coin flip, Jaycob Priscaro, Logan Hicks and Jamario Littlejohn accompanied the Panthers' team captains to the center of the field.
"It was fun. I got noticed!" said Jaycob of the coin flip. Jamario said he was close enough to hear the players wish each other a good game.
Before the game, the Ebinport Panthers got to meet some of their favorite Carolina Panthers.
Jamario was his team's MVP last season and a triple threat, playing quarterback, running back and receiver. His favorite player is DeAngelo Williams.
Jaycob told Panther rookie Cam Newton he was a good quarterback. He said Newton replied, "OK."
The Ebinport Panthers play in a Rock Hill recreation department league. The team draws players from Ebinport, Rosewood and Westminster-Catawba schools. A large contingent of their fans and parents attended the game, too.
At top, the Ebinport Panthers run into the stadium Saturday before the Carolina Panthers played the New York Giants in their first preseason game. Above right, members of the Ebinport youth football team shake hands with New York Giants after the coin toss. Below right, the Ebinport Panthers watch rookie quarterback Cam Newton (1) and wide receiver David Clowney (87) warm up before the game.