PANA (WCIA) — One of only three juniors selected to the Class 2A All-State team a season ago, Pana quarterback Max Lynch isn’t overly concerned with making it back-to-back.

“It stayed in my head for about two weeks,” Lynch said about the achievement. “But that loss to Nashville stayed in my head for a lot longer than that.”

The No. 2 seeded and undefeated Panthers were bounced from the playoffs in the quarterfinals by a Hornets squad that went on to the state title game. With a sour taste left in his mouth, the dual-threat QB went to work in the offseason, adding 10 pounds while running a personal-best 4.7 40-yard dash.

“Pretty much every day after school, we’d come out here and throw some routes,” Pana receiver Ace Armstrong said. “Lot more faster, stronger, it’s paying off.”

“I think the confidence is high, seeing all the players return, the guys I’ve played with all my life,” Lynch added. “But it’s still good to have a healthy fear of your opponents and still want to outwork everyone.”

Lynch’s 2021 was equally impressive through the air and on the ground, throwing for more than 1,500 yards and 19 passing touchdowns, but the ground game is where he showed his athleticism most. Lynch ran for more than 1,300 yards and 20 additional touchdowns, single season school records for both in his first full season under center.

“You could always just tell, Max in JFL was the guy,” Pana head coach Trevor Higgins said. “You always want to put your best athlete as quarterback, get him the ball every play and let him make plays. Great leader, doesn’t get overly emotional about anything. Very level-headed and just makes plays.”

“I was always want the healthy fear to overweigh that feeling of accomplishment, because once you feel accomplished, you stop working,” said Lynch.

Pana opens the season Aug. 26 at Vandalia.