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HS football: Experienced Chestatee team wants more in 2012
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Last year, Chestatee’s season, to an extent, hung in the balance on the fourth game of the season against Monroe Area, the first subregion game of the year.

Chestatee, then 3-0, took the Purple Hurricanes down to the wire before falling 41-35. In addition to suffering their first loss, the War Eagles would never again in 2011 have fewer than three starters out with an injury, including quarterback Jordan Degraff.

It was the start of a 1-6 finish to the season, revealing a lack of depth.

Chestatee coach Stan Luttrell, along with a group of 16 returning senior starters, is determined to not let that happen again.

So, for the first time in years, a number of War Eagles will play on both sides of the ball, and each player is already practicing both ways, in order to maximize the available talent. And the talent is there to make the kind of run that the team started to make last season, even with the move up to Region 8-AAAA.

"We have a lot of (young) guys growing up, and they’re ready for a great year," said Luttrell, who boasts 18 seniors and "27 or 28" juniors. "These are seniors that got a ton of reps as sophomores."

And the upperclassmen have the experience to camp out on the field if needed. Luttrell mentioned returning starter and senior quarterback Jordan Degraff as a prime example.

Degraff led the team in interceptions as a sophomore cornerback and then switched to starting quarterback last season.

This season he will once again be behind center, but that may not be his only role.

"We may shift him to corner, safety or punter, whatever we need him to do," Luttrell said. "We will make the most of the talent we have."

Offense

Chestatee returns three of last season’s four top rushers, including the top two in seniors Brandon Thompson and Quan Clark, who combined for over 1,000 yards on the ground.

Luttrell said the backfield will be five or six rushers deep this season, including junior William Fayson, who Luttrell said has the potential to start on offense and defense.

Also returning is Degraff, who ran for 300 yards and passed for 766, accounting for a team-high 16 total touchdowns.

"He definitely knows what we’re looking for," Luttrell said of his signal caller.

Three of last season’s starting linemen return as well to help block for the experienced backfield, which will need to make up for the loss of 2011 senior running back Montrai Tate’s 448 rushing yards.

Luttrell said the strength of the team is up front on both sides of the ball, and that on offense, the linemen have the size to push back defenses and let the backfield work.

And, while the team certainly likes to run, defenses won’t be able to overlook the wide receivers, led by Kelly Arthur, Tony Fayson and Thompson, who will play running back and receiver.

Defense

With a number of offensive starters possibly playing defense as well, it’s still very much up in the air as to what the final makeup will be, save that nearly all of the players will be able to help on the defensive side.

Luttrell added that the defensive line, led by nose tackle Spencer Stover and Kalil Cantrell at defensive end, is a strength.

Seniors Kyle Perry (top returning tackler with 82 last season), Jay Lyles, and Austin Holcombe all return at linebacker.

In the secondary, seniors Nick Gladmon and Tommy McCormack return to help solidify the secondary.

Special teams

Last season’s kicking and punting duo of Michael Herrin and Leo Molina, who accounted for all of the field goals and all but five punts, graduated, leaving a void to fill.

Luttrell noted that Degraff could be in the mix on punts, providing the threat of a fake on each play. He said a number of players are competing for the jobs.

Outlook

Luttrell said the goal for this senior-laden team is the playoffs, even with the move up in classification. If the War
Eagles can start as strong as last season, stay relatively healthy and keep the hot start going into region play, the goal is certainly within reach.

It doesn’t hurt, as the coach noted, that with the realignment, the odds of a top-four finish are much better.

Instead of playing in a 13-team region, the next two years there are just nine teams in 8-AAAA.

 

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