Chestatee’s Stan Luttrell is the ultimate optimist when it comes to his team. The War Eagles coach has no doubt in his mind they are better than the team that got shelled by Gainesville 35-0 in Week 1.
Now the task is simple: Prove it.
After that opening night loss, the War Eagles (0-1) have prepared the past two weeks to make sure that the kind of outing they had against the Red Elephants (2-0) doesn’t happen again. Chestatee has its shot at redemption tonight against Johnson (0-2) at Billy Ellis Memorial in Oakwood.
“This game against Johnson is an opportunity for us to show that we have a good team,” Luttrell said. “We haven’t put our best football forward as a team yet.”
The kind of mistakes the War Eagles made in their season opener are the kind that will make a coach pull his hair out. Chestatee put together four drives with at least 10 plays, but weren’t able to score against Gainesville. The War Eagles defense wasn’t much more efficient, allowing the Red Elephants to convert on six of seven third down attempts.
“That loss for two weeks was just riding on my shoulders,” Chestatee senior Thomas Norman said. “We just have to be able to come out and beat Johnson and forget about the past.”
The War Eagles coach decided to approach that opening game loss as a learning opportunity. He talked with his team about taking advantage of scoring opportunities and playing more aggressively on defense.
Luttrell understands that it’s a long season, and one loss wasn’t going to be a make-or-break deal for Chestatee. Still, he’s able to have fun with the fact that a lot of fans in Hall County have already jumped off the War Eagles’ bandwagon after just one game.
“I have no doubts that we’re a good team,” War Eagles wide receiver Justin Byers said. “If we win this one tonight we’ll be set, but if we lose we’re gonna be hurting.”
Luttrell approached the two-week stretch between games with a level-headed approach. He spent the first week working out the mental kinks and getting re-focused by watching game film to point out mistakes. This week, it was all about preparing on the practice field for playing the Knights, who narrowly lost 17-14 to Class AAAAA’s North Forsyth last Friday.
Chestatee’s coach — a former assistant coach at Johnson — feels like his team is back in tune and ready to get its season back on track, even though he’s still up in the air on whether the week off after the big loss will turn out to be good or bad for his team.
“(Tonight’s) game is important because one team is going to get its first win in 2008,” Luttrell said. “And we’ll do everything we possibly can to make sure its us.”
The Knights are in a very similar situation to the War Eagles, eagerly anticipating that first win of the season. Johnson coach Paul Friel remains encouraged by the performance of his team, even though it hasn’t resulted in a win.
“We had plenty of opportunities to win against North Forsyth and just couldn’t finish,” Friel said. “But we watched the tape of that game and were really happy with what we saw.”
A good week of practice has Johnson’s coach encouraged that his team ready to forget about the past and get in the win column. Friel knows the loser of this game has more of an uphill climb to stay on track before the subregion schedule starts.
“We’ve had a really good week of practice, and really just worked out some of the kinks,” Friel added.
“The kids have responded really well.”
The War Eagles can count on seeing Anthony Prophet taking all the snaps for Johnson, after former Knights quarterback Michael Lorentz decided last week to move to Gainesville. Friel said that his former sophomore quarterback made that decision with baseball as a primary factor.
He doesn’t doubt that Prophet will be able to handle the pressure of being the sole go-to guy behind center. Friel says that other players have been promoted to fill in behind Prophet, if needed.
“Anthony is taking it well,” Friel said. “He’s not getting too comfortable to where he thinks he doesn’t have to perform.”