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5 things to watch in 2021 Chestatee High School football season
Chestatee practice
Chestatee High football practice Aug. 4, 2021, in Gainesville. - photo by Bill Murphy

Head coach Shaun Conley is starting to see some exciting changes with Chestatee High’s football team. 

In his sixth season, the War Eagles’ coach is seeing the kids are buying into the program.

He said players were not always into the culture of being a responsible and attentive member of the Chestatee football program.

“They are doing the right things right now,” Conley said. “We don’t have those issues right now. They are working hard. They have brought in. The culture has changed for the good.”

This was evidenced at the end of the last season. Chestatee was on its way to a winless season, but the players’ energy was joyful and energetic. They did not let a global pandemic nor a tough season damper their enthusiasm.

That energy has persisted. 

“It has been awesome,” Conley said. “If there is anything we did learn, it’s that we can ask too much of these kids in the summer. Last year forced us to back off a lot. This spring has been really nice. We had a really young team last year and it hurt us.”

Last season was especially difficult when senior starting quarterback Christian Charles, who now plays defensive back at the University of Tennessee, went down with a season-ending injury in Week 1. 

2021 Schedule

  • Aug. 27 at Cherokee Bluff
  • Sept. 3 UNION COUNTY
  • Sept. 10 WEST HALL
  • Sept. 17 at North Hall
  • Oct. 1 NORTH OCONEE*
  • Oct. 8 EAST HALL*
  • Oct. 15 at Madison County*
  • Oct. 22 JEFFERSON*
  • Oct. 29 at Flowery Branch*
  • Nov. 4 at Cedar Shoals*

*Region games

Just the culture

Whenever a team experiences a tough season, things can really fall apart. Players can stop believing in themselves and just go through the motions just to get to the season’s end. 

Conley saw something different in his team. During Chestatee’s final practice of the 2020 season, his War Eagles were still practicing as if they were pursuing an undefeated season. 

“There would have been no way they would be able to tell (we were winless). This is the top one for us. Chestatee is focused on getting better every day. 

Mental focus

The War Eagles got better as a team, in Conley’s eyes. Chestatee players made improvements throughout the last season, even with the loss of the three-year starter Charles at quarterback. 

While most teams may have folded losing a Power 5 player, Conley had to make adjustments to having new quarterback, Luke Bornhorst, who will again start in 2021. 

Chestatee’s players just kept working on every snap. The seniors in this program have played either the state runner-up or state champion on their schedule the last three years. 

The team’s focus is to take one game at a time. 

Settled quarterback in place

Now a senior, Bornhorst (1,111 passing yards in 2020) is comfortable as the starting quarterback. 

He was forced into the position early last year. 

Last season, Bornhorst was having to learn on the fly when Charles exited the first game of the season against West Hall and soon after opted to go ahead and have season-ending shoulder surgery.

With a year under his best, Bornhorst is much more comfortable under center. 

Conley said that Bornhorst showed signs of improvement every game last season. 

This summer, he has attended several camps to improve his skills to take over the War Eagles position. 

Always competing

Conley is seeing the players buying in and being more focused. 

Now, he wants to always make sure his players are competing and getting better at what they’re doing.

The schedule doesn’t get any easier in 2021 for Chestatee, playing in the same Region 8-4A with a bona fide state-title contender Jefferson and a deep Flowery Branch squad. 

Experienced veterans

The War Eagles have players with game experience on both ends of the field. There are eight returning players on offense and nine returning on defense. Pacing the defense is the return of senior Drew Knickel, who had a team-high 66 stops in 2020. 

The game experience and the depth will help some this season. There has also been some adjustments to player responsibilities and expectations. 

Conley also made some changes to the coaching personnel to better help the program.  

2021 roster

1. Christian Vargas So.

2. Luke Bornhorst Sr.

3. Hunter Fouche Sr.

4. Matt Hale Fr.

5. Landon Johnson Fr.

6. Sazo Dollyhigh So.

7. Christian Jarrard Jr.

8. Josh Kermode Fr.

9. Adriel Vargas Jr.

10. Hayden Gowin Sr.

11. Wyatt Goode Sr.

12. Drew Knickel Sr.

13. Eli Raines So.

14. Elijah Pruitt Jr.

15. Cayden Goss Fr.

16. Isaac Jones Sr.

17. Beau Edwards So.

18. Hunter Dickson So.

19. David Diaz Jr.

20. Cameron Davidenko Fr.

21. Edwin Rodrigues So.

22. Bryan Siglera Fr.

23. Gadiel Sanchez Fr.

24. Jason Granados So.

25. Hector Espinoza Fr.

26. Mattox Miller Sr.

27. Isaiah Gilez Fr.

28. Cole Davidenko Sr.

29. Braeden Bennett Jr.

31. Gage Allison Fr.

32. Clynton Brookshire Sr.

35. Gavin Camp Sr.

42. Ethan Clark Jr.

45. Cooper Barrett Sr.

52. Deacon Wilson Fr.

54. Gavin McManus So.

55. Martin Geronimo Sr.

56. Owen Baker Sr.

57. Harrison Mitchell Sr.

58. Walker Whitmire Sr.

59. Hayden Britton Sr.

60. Bryant Barnes So.

61. Alex Zamora Sr.

62. Justus Robinson Fr.

63. Gabriel Mejia Fr.

65. Bryan Cantrell Sr.

66. Ulisses Arellano Fr.

67. Luis Jordan Jr.

68. Austin Seafort Fr.

71. Ankin Rowland Sr.

72. Alex Contreras So.

74. Brenden Carlson Fr.

76. Levi Stowers Sr.

77. Anakin Rowland Sr.

78. Christopher Hammond Jr.

79. Nathaniel Brazier So.

84. Charlie Bradshaw Fr.

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