Head coach Andy Bogert says when his Heritage Hall Chargers showed up for the first practice of the 2011 season, he could have asked them to run any play in the playbook, and the starters would have known how to execute it.
But 2012 is a different story.
With only four returning starters across the board, Bogert has spent much of August teaching his younger players.
And the value of experienced guys like Jarred Stewart, Chedon Shockley, Trent Saunders and Cody Moore multiplies instantly.
Of those returning starters, Stewart, Saunders and Moore will all see time on the defensive line, making it the team's strongest unit going into the season opener.
“We're looking for some good things from those guys,” Bogert said. “Chedon is at an outside linebacker/strong safety role right now, and he's a really solid player for us there. He'll make a lot of tackles. He has the experience we need in the back, for sure.”
Senior Tyler McGinnis will play a variety of positions in the secondary as well.
The offense will be more of a finesse game, though the basic schemes will be similar to the Chargers of the last few years.
A sophomore, Connor McGinnis, is likely to step into the starting quarterback role, with A.J. Knowles taking over at running back. Shockley could also see time there, as well as at receiver.
“We've still got the skill guys to spread people out and worry them,” Bogert said. “A.J. is a big, power runner. He doesn't lose yards. He falls forward two or three yards when he goes down.”
With a roster that is about half filled with freshmen, Bogert expects a couple of them to work their way into the lineup as well.
Though there are a lot of new faces, the expectations haven't dropped off at Heritage Hall.
“The atmosphere has been a lot of learning,” Shockley said. “If we're going to be good, it's going to be as a team, not as individuals. If we can come together as a team — which I think we can do — we can be pretty good.”