Posted: Monday, August 13th 2012 at 9:37am
Football 2012: Chestatee ready to ride upperclassmen to glory
By Morgan Lee Editor
GAINESVILLE -- The last few seasons haven’t been easy for Chestatee football players and coaches, who have watched strong starts stutter across the finish line and winning records slip away.
The War Eagles believe that all changes in 2012.
With a combined 50 juniors and seniors on the roster, Chestatee’s veteran line-up is determined to bounce back and make a mark in the War Eagles’ first campaign in Class AAAA.
“We’re top-heavy with juniors and seniors, and our football IQ has really gone up over the summer and in preseason,” Chestatee coach Stan Luttrell said. “I’m excited for the season and to see these guys continue to develop. We’re focusing on becoming the best football players we can be.”
Much of that is due to the War Eagles shifting their focus away from single-platoon football and training each player for positions on offense and defense.
“We’ve had so many injury problems that we want to make sure that if someone goes down this year, we’re not scrambling to find someone with experience to fill the hole,” Luttrell said. “We’ve got real depth on both sides of the ball now, and we want to make the most of that, so we’ve been training to be the best football players we can be, not just the best running back or linebacker.”
The War Eagles feel they have talent and experience at just about every position and are ready for the move to Region 8-AAAA, up from 8-AAA.
“It’ll be interesting to see how it shakes out,” Luttrell said of 8-AAAA, which includes old region foes Stephens County, Lumpkin County and Walnut Grove, as well as talented new opponents such as Eastside, Lanier (which, although in 8-AAA last season, played a non-region schedule) and Madison County.
“It will be a hard-nosed, physical region, with some outstanding athletes,” Luttrell said. “That means you’re going to have hold up through a pounding.”
The War Eagles should be prepared for the slugfest in 8-AAAA thanks to a deep offensive and defensive line that includes, on offense, center Jordan Browning, guards Ryland Washington and Jonathan West and tackles Johious Cantrell and Danny Mejia. On defense nose guard Spencer Stover and Cantrell will combine with defensive ends Rob Minor, Cody Humphries, Kalil Cantrell and Mejia.
“It all starts up front,” Luttrell said. “We’ve got some big, physical guys and we have some quality skill guys behind them.”
That includes returning starting quarterback Jordan DeGraff, who looked impressive in his debut as signal caller putting up 766 yards passing, 300 yards rushing and 16 total TDs in 2011 -- despite sitting a number of games through a foot injury.
He will be backed by a deep running back corps that includes leading returning rusher Quan Clark (544 yards rushing, 4 TDs in 2011). He will split carries with William Fayson, Jay Lyles, Austin Holcombe and Blake Buffington (the only non-returning varsity player of the group).
Defensively, the War Eagles will mix coverages and looks among its linebackers and defensive backs.
“The kids are responding to the changes,” Luttrell said.
Baker, McCormack and Kyle Perry will lead the way at inside linebacker, while Holcombe, Coleman Wilson, Zac Cheshire, McCormack and Buffington will play outside in Chestatee’s linebacker/defensive back hybrid positions.
Meanwhile, Nick Gladmon, Clark, Arthur, DeGraff and Matthew Nelson will play at cornerback and Fayson and Tyree Robertson will feature at safety.
Chestatee will have to replace its placekicker but is excited at the progress of lineman Eddie Zamora, who has stepped up to fill the role.
“Everyone is practicing special teams right now,” said Luttrell, who hopes the cross-training will help when his team faces the inevitable tough going each season promises.
“We need to handle adversity better,” Luttrell said. “Not everything is going to go your way in a game, in a season. We haven’t handled that well when it’s happened to us in the past. We need to learn from it and grow.”
CHESTATEE: NEED TO KNOW
MASCOT: War Eagles
TEAM COLORS: Black, Silver and Maroon
CURRENT REGION: 8-AAAA
HEAD COACH/RECORD AT SCHOOL: Stan Luttrell, seventh season, 29-32
2011 RECORD/ ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 4-6
KEY LOSSES: RB Montrai Tate, RB Brandon Thompson, OL Austin Edmonds, DL Garrett Bennett, LB Cody Etris
OFFENSIVE STYLE: Split-back option -- the War Eagles have run the formation since Luttrell took over and will look to run first and take what the defense gives them in the pass.
KEY OFFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. RB Quan Clark (544 yards rushing, 4 TDs in 2011), Sr. QB Jordan DeGraff (766 yards passing, 300 yards rushing, 16 total TDs in 2011), Sr. OL Ryland Washington, Sr. OL Jonathan West, Sr. OL Johious Cantrell, Sr. WR Kelly Arthur (213 yards receiving, 2 TDs in 2011) -- 7 starters returning
DEFENSIVE STYLE: 3-5 -- Chestatee will move around on defense, bringing pressure from different angles and should be the most aggressive it’s been in some time.
KEY DEFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. MLB Kyle Perry (leading returning tackler -- 82 tackles), Jr. DE Kalil Cantrell, Jr. SS William Fayson, Sr. OLB Austin Holcombe, Sr. NG Spencer Stover, Jr. DE Rob Minor -- 7 starters returning
SPECIAL TEAMS: Jr. P/K Eddie Zamora; punting duties still undecided at press time.
STRENGTH: Depth -- The War Eagles feature 50 juniors and seniors combined, most of which have played significant minutes. Chestatee hopes its experience, ability and leadership can push the program back to a winning season and a playoff berth.
QUESTION: Ability to handle adversity -- Chestatee has suffered more than its share of bad news over the past two seasons, specifically on the injury front. The War Eagles have moved to quash that issue but still need to prove they can respond when things get tough.
KEY GAMES: The War Eagles open against archrival North Hall (Aug. 31, home), and while the game won’t mean anything in the postseason race, it will mean a lot emotionally and will give Chestatee a great early litmus test. The War Eagles host Eastside (Sept. 21) and then travel to face Stephens County (Sept. 28) in key region battles.
TRENDING: It’s been four seasons since the War Eagles posted a winning mark, going 4-6 in three of those campaigns. Chestatee believes it has the team and ability to change that in 2012 and rekindle its postseason hopes.
Aug. 31 vs. North Hall
Sept. 7 at West Hall
Sept. 21 vs. Eastside
Sept. 28 at Stephens County
Oct. 5 at Johnson
Oct. 12 vs. Walnut Grove
Oct. 19 vs. Lanier
Oct. 26 at Lumpkin County
Nov. 2 vs. Monroe Area
Nov. 9 at Madison County
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