Posted: Thursday, August 15th 2013 at 9:37am
Football 2013: War Eagles ready to take another big step forward
By Morgan Lee Editor
CHESTATEE: NEED TO KNOW
MASCOT: War Eagles
TEAM COLORS: Black, Silver and Maroon
CURRENT REGION: 8-AAAA
HEAD COACH/RECORD AT SCHOOL: Stan Luttrell, eighth season, 37-35
2012 RECORD/ ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 8-3, first round Class AAAA playoffs
KEY LOSSES: RB Quan Clark, QB Jordan DeGraff, OL Ryland Washington, OL Johnathan West, OL Johious Cantrell, WR Kelly Arthur, MLB Kyle Perry, OLB Austin Holcombe, NG Spencer Stover
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. Yet the War Eagles will do some learning on the job, with just two returning starters.
KEY OFFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. QB Wyatt Burgess, Sr. TE Khalil Cantrell, Sr. RB Blake Buffington, Sr. RB Zac Cheshire, Sr. RB William Fayson, Sr. WR Tyree Robertson
DEFENSIVE STYLE: 3-5 -- Chestatee will move around on defense, bringing pressure from different angles and, with seven starters returning, could be the strength of the team early.
KEY DEFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. DE Khalil Cantrell, Sr. DE Cody Humphries, Sr. DL Rob Minor, Sr. DL Kurt Radford, Sr. Saf Blake Buffington, Sr. Saf Tyree Robertson
SPECIAL TEAMS: Sr. PK Eddie Zamora; punting duties a battle between Sr. Grayson Entrekin and Sr. William Fayson
STRENGTH:Line of scrimmage -- The War Eagles may have a few new faces in the trenches, but not many, and all of them are sizable and powerful.
QUESTION: Game experience -- Chestatee has several players who should be capable of stepping into starting roles and excelling, but they will have to prove it.
KEY GAMES: Opening the season against arch-rival North Hall is a huge way to kick off the campaign. Traveling to Eastside on Sept. 20 and then playing host to Stephens County (Sept. 27) will do much to determine Chestatee's fortunes in 2013. The game at Lanier (Oct. 18) and at Monroe Area (Nov. 1) will also be huge if the War Eagles want to make back-to-back playoff appearances.
TRENDING: Chestatee certainly was on the up in 2012, setting a school record for wins in a season and reaching the state playoffs for the first time since 2006. With another big senior class to rely on, the War Eagles feel their arrow is still very much pointing "up."
Aug. 30 at North Hall
Sept. 6 vs. West Hall
Sept. 20 at Eastside
Sept. 27 vs. Stephens County
Oct. 4 at Johnson
Oct. 11 at Walnut Grove
Oct. 18 at Lanier
Oct. 25 vs. Lumpkin County
Nov. 1 at Monroe Area
Nov. 8 vs. Madison County
GAINESVILLE -- For years, Chestatee football fought toward a breakout season.
In 2012, the War Eagles got it, posting their highest ever win total and hosting their first state playoff game.
The question now for Chestatee is can the War Eagles maintain that surge and add to it?
Stan Luttrell certainly believes so.
Despite the graduation of a number of standouts from a season ago, the War Eagles head coach likes the make-up of his 2013 squad and says that -- most importantly -- his players believe in themselves.
“The best thing that came out of 2012 is that we gained some confidence that we could compete with people that maybe (our players) didn’t think they could compete with in past,” Luttrell said. “The confidence that comes with experiencing those victories carries a long way.”
“They're a good group, and they’re looking for big things,” Luttrell said. "We've had a great offseason and we’re trying to build off the momentum created by 2012 and keep that moving.”
To do that, Chestatee knows it must replace a number of key starters on both sides of the ball, especially at the offensive skill positions.
That includes a new starting quarterback and running backs -- with returning players making up roughly 1,000 of the near 4,000 yards that War Eagles backs rushed for last season.
Luttrell says there are plenty of talented, capable runners in the backfield this season, including Blake Buffington, Zac Cheshire, Tray Bryant, William Fayson and Kris Pierce, who will all battle for carries (returning standout A.J. Sijiye will miss the season with a knee injury). Quarterback Wyatt Burgess will also move into a starting role after seeing time during each of the past two seasons.
“(Burgess has) had one of the best summers of anyone,” Luttrell said. “He’s worked hard and matured. And we’ve got a slew of running backs in backfield. We want a ‘next-guy-in’ mentality. We want three guys to play two positions. There are no superstars right now, but they’re all capable and waiting their turn.”
Luttrell says the same is true for the War Eagles on defense, where “seven guys can step in and start at linebacker.”
There is another factor that both offense and defense share: both will be anchored by stout lines of scrimmage.
Defensive ends like All-Region standouts Cody Humphries and Khalil Cantrell will play key roles, along with Rob Minor, Noah Baxter, Kurt Radford, Matt Pruitt, Brandon Brechter, Grayson Entrekin, Brett Anderson and Cody Kenimer.
“They’re physical and quick. Our strength should be the line of scrimmage,” Luttrell said.
Chestatee will also feature standouts in its secondary, including Buffington, Justin Spears and Tyree Robertson, who will combine with linebackers like Zach Boerger and Seth Strickland to bring pressure on opposing offenses. The unit has been driven by the memory of last year’s first round playoff exit to LaGrange in which the visiting Grangers outscored the War Eagles 59-46.
“I think we can get a lot better on defense. We've got to get people off the field on third down. Go back to playoff game, we had them on third down 15 times and they only punted twice,” Luttrell said. “We’re still going to be aggressive on defense. We came across a slogan that fits us this summer: 'The best way to handle pressure is to apply it.' ”
Over the coming weeks, the War Eagles hope to turn that pressure into success and another run to the state playoffs -- and perhaps beyond.
“Our guys were definitely excited to make the playoffs and host a playoff game. And we should expect that in this program now,” Luttrell said. “We left last year knowing we should have won that (playoff) game, and if we had we feel like we could have made a big run.”
In the next few days, the War Eagles will look to start another run.
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