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FOOTBALL 2020: Chestatee looking to improve in QB Charles' senior year, despite losing 17 to graduation
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Chestatee High football players practice Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, at War Eagle Stadium in preparation for the upcoming season. - photo by Scott Rogers

The Northeast Georgia Health System is sponsoring this year's football preview coverage, as a season unlike any other begins this fall. Sports coverage is independently reported. Please consider supporting our work by subscribing to The Times.


The Chestatee football team will feature plenty of new faces this season after losing 17 seniors to graduation, many of those vacating starter spots they’ve held for the last three or four years. The War Eagles took a small step forward last season, going 2-8 following a 1-9 season in 2018, but will have to break in several new starters on both sides of the ball if they want to continue to make progress.  

Chestatee’s offense will still run through senior quarterback Christian Charles, who has fielded offers from a number of Division I schools including Tennessee, Oklahoma and Virginia Tech. But Charles will have to adapt to playing without some of his most productive offensive running mates from a season ago, including leading receiver Seth Pressley, who topped 1,000 yards receiving in the last two years for the War Eagles before graduating this May.  

Still, despite the changes in roster construction the team has had to go through, fifth-year head coach Shaun Conley said he’s confident in the guys currently on the roster, just as soon as he finds the best way to use their talents on Friday nights. 

“We’re trying to bump guys around and find that right fit right now,” he said. “That may take a minute, but once we do that, I think there’s going to be some kids that have a big year.” 

CHARLES STAYING STRONG 

Charles, listed as a 6-foot-1 athlete on 247sports.com, has helped to carry the War Eagles to new heights in the last three seasons as starting quarterback, and he will look to continue that streak this year. The senior signal caller has damaged opposing defenses with both his arm and his legs over the past couple of seasons. He has eclipsed 3,000 total yards in each of the last two years, but Conley said individual accolades have never really interested Charles that much. 

“He wants for the team to be successful,” Conley said. “That’s what makes him unique a little bit, different than some of the others that I’ve coached in my career. He’s very humble. It’s not about him, and I can honestly say that.” 

Conley added that while Charles will certainly be the centerpiece of the War Eagles offense, he does not want the senior quarterback to feel pressured to carry the team by himself. Despite losing several skill position players and offensive linemen to graduation, Conley said those units will have to step up to help Charles continue his successful career at Chestatee. 

“He’s a great athlete, who’s going to continue to make plays,” Conley said. “I just don’t want him to feel like the weight of the world is on his shoulders, because it’s not. He’s just got to go do what he’s been doing for three years now, and he’ll be fine and we’ll be fine.” 

REPLACING GRADUATED TALENT 

The Chestatee starting lineup is going to look drastically different this Friday than it did on opening night a year ago. The team lost 17 seniors to graduation, and Conley said around 12 of those have started for the War Eagles for the last three or four years. On offense, the team loses leading receiver Seth Pressley, as well as four out of five starting offensive linemen.  

Defensively, the team is losing some of its size and will have to turn to a smaller and less experienced lineup. Still, Conley said he was confident in the younger players who are eager to prove themselves on Friday nights. 

“When you graduated 17 seniors, for us, that’s a big number, and it’s hard to replace some of those guys,” Conley said. “But we’ve got young guys that are stepping up.” 

CONTINUING TO IMPROVE DEFENSIVELY 

The War Eagles have struggled on the defensive side of the ball for the last two years, giving up 30 or more points in 18 of their last 20 games. But Conley said there’s reason to believe things may get better in 2020. For one, the team gave up about two fewer touchdowns per game in 2019 than 2018, and Conley said he sees that trend continuing as players grow familiar with the defensive system in place.  

Additionally, while the War Eagle defense will be younger and smaller this year than last, Conley said it will also be faster, a trait he sees as integral to building a strong unit.  

“These kids are understanding kind of what we’re trying to do a lot better, which will make us better, I believe,” he said. “We made drastic improvements last year from the year before, so if we can do that again, I think we’re going to be fine.” 

ROSTER

1. Christian Vargas Fr.

2. Luke Bornhorst Jr.

3. Christian Charles Sr.

5. Hunter Fouche So.

6. Sazo Dollyhigh Fr.

7. Christian Jarrard So.

9. Adriel Vargas Fr.

10. Hayden Gowin Jr.

11. Wyatt Goode Jr.

12. Drew Knickel Jr.

13. Ethan Corley Sr.

14. Elijah Pruitt So.

15. Austin Bater Jr.

16. Jasper Graham Sr.

17. Beau Edwards Fr.

18. Brice Dickson Jr.

22. Payton Warren Sr.

23. Daniel Guardiola Sr.

24. Jason Granados Fr.

27. Dakota George So.

29. Braedon Bennett So.

33. Wil O’Neal So.

34. Sebastian Amerson Fr.

38. Anakin Rowland Jr.

40. Reid Britton Fr.

42. Ethan Clark So.

50. Cooper Barrett Jr.

51. Ivan Mendoza Jr.

52. Nathan Brazier Fr.

55. Jeronimo Marin Jr.

56. Grant Siegfried Sr.

57. Harrison Mithcell Jr.

58. Walker Whitmire Jr.

59. Hayden Britton Jr.

60. Bryant Barnes Fr.

61. Alex Zamora Jr.

64. Jeremiah Rowe So.

65. Bryan Cantrell Jr.

67. Luis Jordan So.

68. Griffin Hammond So.

71. Daniel Zaleta So.

72. Alex Contreras Fr.

73. Victor Rosas Sr.

74. Triston Minor So.

75. Gael Rodriguez Jr.

76. Levi Stowers Jr.

79. Erick Penado Sr.

85. Rafael Cruz Sr.

SCHEDULE

September 11                     CHEROKEE BLUFF

September 18                     at Union County

September 25                    at West Hall

October 2                           NORTH HALL

October 16                          at North Oconee

October 23                         at East Hall

October 30                        MADISON COUNTY

November 6                      at Jefferson

November 13                    FLOWERY BRANCH

November 20                   CEDAR SHOALS

Regional events