The Chambersburg Trojan football team had a winning record in 2012.

That's not news. After all, the 6-5 season has been over for nearly two weeks now.

But it's certainly worth noting again because it's been 14 years since I could type those words - winning season - in the same sentence as Chambersburg football. It wasn't all that long ago that a winning season was a given and the question was more about perhaps getting a double-figure win total.

So having a winning season was a goal that was reached by the Trojans. Kudos to them and the coaching staff. They earned it.

And they were a fun team to watch. The offense had all kinds of weapons and could score from anywhere on the field. The team fell behind and rallied to win several times. Big plays were the norm and not the exception.

So it was a nice season in 2012. I predicted a 6-4 regular season, so you could say the team did what I expected.

But

I know I'm not the only one who thinks this season could have been so much more.

Trojan coach Mark Saunders said, "For the most part it was a successful year, but I'm not satisfied. We wanted to be more relevant and I think we were. It was still good for the kids, but I think we were a little behind where I thought we could be."

You can look back at the 30-28 loss to State College as one that got away. Jamal Pickett's 97-yard catch-and-run - probably the play of the year - gave his team a 28-24 lead with 41 seconds left, but the Little Lions scored on the final play of the game to win.


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Saunders believes the Central York loss in the District 3 playoffs and losses to Cumberland Valley and Harrisburg could also have been turned around.

But here's how I look at it: Chambersburg had a big-time offense, good enough to compete with and scare any team it played. However, the defense just wasn't at that same level and it cost the Trojans some wins.

Chambersburg did not score fewer than 22 points all year and that 22 came against Harrisburg, which has possibly the best defense in the midstate. In every other game the Trojans scored at least four touchdowns. They averaged 38.4 points per game, which is well above average.

The opponents averaged 24.5. If you look at the seven Mid Penn Commonwealth Division games - the real measuring stick - Chambersburg scored 33.7 and opponents scored 32.7.

Saunders said, "The defense does need to be better. We have to be able to put our players in better position to make plays. We have to be good at evaluating what the kids can do and where to put them so they can play their best.

"We try to come up with a scheme for the kids we have. We have to be a pressure defense because we can't sit back and try to get off the blocks; you put yourself at too much risk in the secondary."

To narrow it down even further, third downs were a problem. As in, opponents were able to make first downs too frequently.

"Third-down conversions were too high," Saunders said. "We have to be able to stop them more often and get the ball back. We did make some big fourth-down stops, but to be a championship team you have to be better. Obviously, if a team can't score much on you, the chance for you to win goes up."

We can toss some numbers around to make a point: The Trojan defense was fine in non-league games, but in Commonwealth games and the playoff, opponents were able to pick up much too much yardage on the ground.

Opponents averaged 192.7 yards per game this year, and that went up to 249.3 in MPC games. Opponents' passing stats were just about the same (100.5 overall to 99.6 in Mid Penn games).

I don't think anyone would quibble with the secondary - it was probably the best set of defensive backs I've seen at Chambersburg in years.

But in the four Mid Penn losses, teams averaged 343.3 yards per game on the ground. That's 7.8 yards per carry, which is way too high.

One thing that worked against Chambersburg was the wide variety of offenses it faced - from CV's wing-T to Central Dauphin's spread to Harrisburg's wide-open attack to CD East's strictly ground game.

"Although the one thing that helps us there is that we run a lot of different stuff on offense, so they see that in practice," Saunders said. "Our defense just needs to recognize what teams are doing a little more quickly."

It would be tough to come up with much to criticize about the Chambersburg offense.

It was balanced - the Trojans averaged 171 yards per game on the ground and 178.5 through the air.

Nobody really shut Chambersburg down. Even in the 22-point Harrisburg game, the Trojans had the ball in the Cougars' red zone seven times. The big mistake there was scoring only three times.

And the offense did not bog down against the best competition. In Commonwealth games, the Trojans' total offense actually went up, to 180.9 yards on the ground and 193.3 in the air. In MPC games, Chambersburg averaged 374.1 yards per game to 348.9 for opponents.

"We moved the ball against everybody," Saunders said. "We were pretty efficient on offense and explosive. We had some games early where we scored 40-plus points and only ran around 40 plays."

Saunders is pondering what changes he can make for next year.

"We might need to have more two-way players next year," he said. "We like to use a two-platoon system to give the kids a rest, but maybe we need to use more on both sides, especially the lineman."

It's not a surprise that Saunders is already thinking about next year. Heck, that probably started on the bus ride home from Central York.

And he's thinking big.

"This year was another step, but we can get better. I think 8-2 or even 9-1 is realistic, because a seven-win season was right there for us this year.

"It's the responsibility of each class to get better each year and we did that this year. We have to do it again next year."

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Ed Gotwals can be reached at 262-4755 and egotwals@publicopinionnews.com.