BURTONSVILLE, Md. (DC News Now) — Under long time head coach Michael Nesmith, Paint Branch football is a contender in Maryland every single season.

“The last you know four years in row, we’ve been essentially 10-2 and losing to QO and Northwest, it’s been a challenge,” Nesmith said. “We’re knocking on the door, we gotta keep working hard and get over the hump so to speak.”

In 2021, the Panthers finished the season 10-2, with their losses coming to Quince Orchard in a tight game during the regular season and a close one to Northwest in the playoffs.

“Even though we didn’t get where we wanted, it definitely set the bar high,” Paint Branch senior wide receiver, defensive back and linebacker Rashad Bradley said. “So coming back from that, it’s just us just doing the same thing, working on mental errors and what we gotta do to be better and have a much better season than last year even though it’s hard to top.”

With more than 20 seniors moving on, including star athlete and quarterback Octavian Smith Jr. (now a freshman wide receiver at Maryland), the Panthers will lead on the next generation of young players as they’re hoping to be state title contenders this season.

“Everybody is confident,” Paint Branch senior wide receiver and defensive back Tavon Bailey. “Our team is doing a way much better job at studying, working hard in the weight room. Since we’re a young team. We’re starting to lift up our younglings and [help them] become better leaders and all that.”