Graduation might have diminished Chestatee’s experience, but it also provided the War Eagles with a renewed focus.
Chestatee has lost 2008’s leading tackler Chase Vasser, the leader in the secondary Jonathon Cain, the three-year signal caller Ethan Souther and seven of the team’s offensive linemen, but that doesn’t mean the War Eagles are ready to throw in the towel on 2009. If anything, the team is ridding itself of the old and preparing for the new, and it all begins with the summer workouts.
“We came at it with a different approach,” said Ben Souther, whose 1,563 rushing yards as a junior put him among the area’s leaders in 2008. “Last year, we came in with our heads too big and now we know we don’t have a lot of people believing in us, and that’s fine with us.”
Unlike the summer of 2008, this year’s workouts are not focused on the 20-plus seniors that hoped to get Chestatee back to the playoffs. This year, the team is simply focused on getting better on both sides of the ball.
“We don’t go out there and play around,” Souther said of the summer workouts. “We work, we don’t take any breaks. We keep running and running and running until we get it right. We’re always getting coached and learning how to do things better the next time.”
The leader of the coaching staff, head coach Stan Luttrell, has noticed a change.
“You hate to compare any group to the group before it, but this group seems to really care about each other,” said Luttrell, who’s had 60-70 players show up for each workout. “They come in every day expecting to work and that’s exciting as a coach.”
That coaching starts early, as the team gathers at 6:50 every morning to either hit the weightroom or work on drills on the practice field.
“We’re definitely not cutting back on ourselves,” Souther said. “We’re trying to steal reps and get in everything we can.”
That’s important, because along with implementing more passes in Luttrell’s “split-back attack,” some War Eagles will be playing both offense and defense this season, and that’s not to fill the void left by the graduated seniors.
“I think it’s attributed to us competing in this region,” Luttrell said. “Region 7-AAA has become, I think, one of the best, if not the best, AAA regions in the state. Our region is so tough that we have to play guys both ways in order to compete and fight for playoff position.”
Along with Souther, who will also play free safety, Chestatee will call upon Lamar Brooks, Alex Moore and Forsyth Central transfer Keaton Summerlin to play on both sides of the ball. Those four, combined with Robby Poole, Jeremy Wilkens and Cam Phillips, has Luttrell confident in his new 4-2-5 defense.
A new defense isn’t the only thing getting implemented. Once practice officially begins Aug. 1, the War Eagles will start to fully develop their offense, which still boasts plenty of rushing plays but contains more pass plays and relies on the playmaking abilities of Souther and new quarterback Scott Chewning.
“We’re just doing some more things within our offense and trying to do some old things better,” Luttrell said. “But we’ve got to be able to throw the ball better than we have in the past.”
Although it’s in the early stages of implementation, Souther is excited about playing a larger role on offense.
“This year, I think I’ll be able to get out and be a little more versatile and spread the field,” Souther said. “Last year, I felt I was stuck in the mud in the backfield.”
While he may have felt stuck, he always had a familiar face next to him in his older brother Ethan. But Ethan is now off to Georgia State and his younger brother is ready to hit the field without him.
“I’m gonna miss Ethan, he was always fun to play with,” the younger Souther said. “I had that standard I had to live up to and I think he’s left me on a good note.”
And Souther thinks his brother’s replacement will fill in just fine.
“They’re two totally different quarterbacks,” Souther said. “But Scott’s a good quarterback and a leader and that’s what you need under center.”
With a new quarterback running a different offense, Luttrell knows that the workouts over the summer are critical.
“We’ve got a lot of stuff to teach and implement in the next couple of months to make sure we’re ready to go,” he said.