“This really sets us up for the playoffs, playing all these tough teams in and out of conference,” Panthers senior Zach Osborn said.

The Monroe City football team must venture straight through a difficult gauntlet this fall.

The Panthers, fresh off a Class 1 state championship, will play seven regular-season games against foes in the Clarence Cannon Conference, one of the premiere small-school football leagues in the state.

Their conference opponents include rival Palmyra in Week 9 for the Mayor’s Cup and Class 2 Final Four team Clark County.

On top of CCC play, the Panthers don’t catch a break in their two non-conference contests, which are at home against West Hancock (Ill.) on Sept. 21 and at Helias on Oct. 5.

“This really sets us up for the playoffs, playing all these tough teams in and out of conference,” senior running back Zach Osborn said. 

Coach David Kirby and Co. are setting out to defeat the best competition around to defend their champion status.

To do so, they must prove their prowess in Class 2 come the playoffs. The Panthers were bumped up a class in the state for 2018.

Monroe City’s repeat mission starts this Friday night against Centralia at Lankford Field.

“We’re going to take it one game at a time,” senior quarterback Blake Hays said. “Centralia is the first on the list, so that’s all we’re really worried about right now. We’re all ready for this first game.”