The new season brings a clean slate for Chestatee High football coach Shaun Conley.
After posting three wins in 2021 and last making the playoffs six years ago, the War Eagles’ seventh-year coach feels like their program has enough experience to reach in-house expectations.
“Our expectations are not based on wins and losses,” Conley said. “We’re more concerned about and pay attention to the things we can control.”
Even with a difficult Region 8-4A schedule on tap, the War Eagles’ coach has adequate returning talent at key position to make things interesting.
Led by a pair of veteran running backs who can be used interchangeably and a promising young quarterback, Chestatee will look to compensate for lack of experience on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
In an 11-school region, the War Eagles will have eight league games to determine the four playoff qualifiers.
“We’re operating on short time this summer,” Conley said. “We have to have our ducks in a row and ready to go for Week 1.”
In 8-4A, North Oconee will likely be the frontrunner, after making the state semifinals in 2021.
There will also be Cherokee Bluff, which is coming off back-to-back Region 7-3A titles and consecutive seasons with double-digit wins.
Also in Region 8-4A is North Hall, which has made the playoffs seven consecutive seasons.
East Forsyth is also an up-and-coming program that has significant talent and had no seniors on the 2021 roster.
Johnson and first-year Seckinger will also be in Region 8-4A, but both have non-region schedules in 2022.
Running back will likely be the biggest strength for Chestatee.
Adriel Vargas and Jason Granados are both returning starters, who can tag in and out of the game without missing on any production.
“We have a lot of experience at running back,” Conley said. “They’re carried the load the past two years for us. The neat thing is that they’re really good friends and push each other to get better.”
Sophomore Josh Kermode, a first-year starter, will take over at quarterback.
At 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, the War Eagles’ young quarterback is a dual threat, running and passing.
“He had a great spring and has done very well this summer,” Conley said. “He’s a student of the game and very intelligent. We’re looking for big things out of him.”
On the outside, Christian Jarrard returns and will give the War Eagles a pass-catching option to help stretch the field.
“He’s a possession-type guy who has good hands and runs good routes,” Conley said. “He’s got a great understanding of what we’re trying to do.”
Hopefully, Conley said, his returning talent at the skill positions on offense can take some of the pressure off an inexperienced offensive line.
Center Nate Brazier is the only returner up front. He started all 10 games last season for Chestatee.
Luis Jordan is a senior who will be counted on to start this season on the offensive line, Conley said, along with Alex Contreras and Gabe Mejia.
On defense, Chestatee’s coach feels good about some of his talent, especially on the back end.
At safety, Elijah Pruitt is a returning starter at safety, while Vargas, Jarrard and Granados will also see considerable snaps on defense.
The defensive line will be an area of concern early for Chestatee, after graduating all of its starters from 2021.
The War Eagles’ coach said that Brenden Carlson and Triston Minor will be counted on to be two of the leaders on the defensive front.
On special teams, Jarrard will be taking on most of the punt return duties. Chestatee’s running backs will share in kick-return roles.
David Diaz and Isaiah Glez will kick and punt for the War Eagles.