Chattooga Indians Rebuilding Or Reloading For The 2017 Football? PDF Print E-mail
News - Local News
Thursday, 24 August 2017 13:29
By DARRIN SMITH
Sportswriter
The 2017-18 Chattooga Indians are a team filled with unknowns. They graduated one of the best senior classes in the school’s history and one of the winningest for sure. There are no players returning who have rushed for 1,000 yards, the new quarterback has limited experience at the position, only two starters return for the offense, and three of the four defensive backs are new to the starting job. On paper it would be hard to expect this year’s squad to reach the monumental heights last year’s squad accomplished. But if that is true, one talk with any current player suggests that either they believe they can accomplish anything or are on a mission to disprove the skeptics.

Inexperience may be a challenge for the team but not one they can’t overcome according to Head Coach Charles Hammon. Hammon who is entering his fourth year said that the goals are the same year in and year out for the Tribe, “Our biggest goal every year is to win one more than we did last year and so far we have done that every year. We won eight games last year, so the goal now is for nine wins and I believe we have a team that can do that. I don’t think these boys are looking around for who is missing from last year, instead they are looking at who is getting the job done now.”

“The biggest strength our team has going into the season is the success of the last two years,” Coach Hammon explained. “Getting a little bit of a taste of winning and knowing what it felt like going to the third round of the playoffs and what it took to get there, is definitely an asset going into this season. I believe the biggest weakness going in is our youth. We only have one true returning starter on offense and that is Dustin Pope. The other returning starter is C.J Martin who started last year at wideout but now he has moved to quarterback. That means 10 of the 11 offensive players are new starters at their position.”

The new starting quarterback doesn’t seem to worry Coach Hammon, who said about the move from wide out to quarterback for Martin, “It’s been a smooth transition and it is going really good. He has had a really good summer and has really taken well, to not only playing quarterback, but stepping up as the leader on the field for the offense as well. I’m feeling good about where he is at right now. I thought the offense looked pretty good in spring and we are expecting that trend to continue. From what I have seen this summer I’d have to say that C.J. has improved the most out of anybody on the team and he is so versatile we would like to start him in several positions.”

Coach Hammon knows he has some players to replace that were almost in the category of irreplaceable but says they have a plan for that. “We have got to be a more balanced team than we have been the last few seasons,” Coach Hammon explained. “We have got to use a lot more kids in a lot more situations than we have had to in the past. I want to spread the ball around a lot and have a backfield that is more of a committee than one single back. We will keep kids rotated in and fresh and throw the ball around more as well. A lot of people have asked, do we have the players to repeat the success of last year’s team? I’d say we are 50/50 on that and only time will tell. I will say we expect it. We have a lot of talented kids on this team and we are going to be relying on them more than ever. We have got to get good production from players like Devin Price, Dee Price, Deshaun Ludy, and Jamarious Mosteller who are all going to see time a tailback and all will all play some inside slot receiver as well as outside receivers. If we get solid play from the lineman to open holes up and the backs learn to follow blocks we have a chance in every game on the schedule.”

Coach Hammon stressed how important it is to get off to a good start is for the Indians but also said the most important thing going into the season was reaching Coosa in the first region matchup healthy. “Coosa is a well-coached team that always plays us well. We have got to be ready for them when that first region game rolls around. Even if we won every game up to that point but were all banged up what good would that do us? We have just got to get through that tough non-region schedule in one piece and be ready to hit region play running. To me the importance of region games far outweighs those non-region starter games. Don’t get me wrong, we want to win those games but whether we win every one or loss them all, in the end it doesn’t have an effect on the season except it makes our goal harder to reach.”

Chattooga won eight games a year ago and suffered five losses. Non-region powerhouses Dawson County and Ridgeland were able to have their way against the tribe a season ago and this year the Indians will be on the road against both hoping to avenge last season. Two region losses came to the eventual number one and two in Region 7-AA with Pepperrell and Rockmart. Two games where the Indians were in it to win it, up to the very end but couldn’t hold on for the victory on the road. The Tribe has both teams at home this season. Coach Hammon and company believe they can once again be right in the hunt this year for a 7-AA title. The final loss came to Hapeville Charter in heartbreaking fashion in the state quarter finals. A game the Indians could have won, should have won, but fell short in the end after battling back and forth for four straight quarters in an epic battle between two fantastic teams.

Coach Hammon has complete confidence in his player leadership on and off the field this year as well, just like last year’s team. “We have five captains this year and all of them are seniors and all are natural leaders, C.J. Martin, Montavius Shropshire, Quintell Price, Dustin Pope and T.J. Adams will do the job well” Coach Hammon commented about this year’s group of captains. “We are going to look to those five to keep the locker room clean, flush the commodes, and lead the football team the way they need to go. Most of the players moving up this year have experience with the coaching staff and they have already been used to our system so they know what to expect and will listen to our coaches as well as the captains. They know our personalities and what we do is pretty simple and methodical so the learning curve isn’t that big of a deal for our newer players especially those who came up from JV.

“In our spring game our defense looked very strong and at times the offense looked a little sporadic,” Coach Hammon said. “When you go back and watch the tape we had multiple plays where we miss the hole, or miss a half back pass, or C.J.’s helmet came off at the 18-yard line when we were about to go in for a score. With all those things if just two or three things had been different the outlook on the offense would be a whole lot different. We have worked all summer on it and we were just over in North Cobb playing a couple of AAAAAAA teams in 11 on 11 games and we looked really good. I was surprisingly excited when we left to come home.”

“Our defense looked incredible in the spring game. The first team defense only gave up a couple of yards of total offense and Lee Huntsville didn’t get a first down against them except on a penalty so we think the defense will be solid. On offense we are going to run a little bit of everything this year. We will run a counter, we will run some traps, we will run some reverses, we are even going to mix in a little option game, run a little veer, and run a little dab of the power game. We have a good play action series, and coaches Gann and Hodges will definitely throw in a few tricks each game,” Coach Hammon laid out the versatility of his new offensive scheme. “We are not selling out and running the lead 40 times a game. There may be games we feel like we need to go up tempo especially playing from behind and also games where we get the lead and slow down the tempo and eat some clock. We may run into some explosive offenses like Ridgeland and Dawson were last year where we will have to slow down the game to keep it away from their offense.”

With only seven returning starters, two on offense and five on defense, the Indians face an uphill battle to reach their goals but they believe they have the personnel to do it. Not one starting defensive player this season hasn’t had quality game time under their belt. Even though the offense is all new with all new players, coordinators Gann and Hodges have them firing on most cylinders this summer preparing. Only time will tell if the Indians have what it takes to continue the ride started two seasons ago but they have confidence in themselves to make the most out of every opportunity going forward.

 


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