Chambersburg starts fresh with new coach
On the first day of official practice, Chambersburg's new football coach Mark Luther had one thing on his mind: he couldn't wait to get to Saturday to see how his team stacked up against an opponent in its first scrimmage.
"I'm excited to see where we are," Luther said.
So is everybody else with an interest in the Trojan program, which has had a meager 2-18 record over the past two years.
Luther, a former head coach at Lock Haven University, is the latest to take on the challenge of making Chambersburg a contender in the rugged Mid Penn Commonwealth Division.
"From May, we started with a mostly-new coaching staff, a new way to practice and different expectations," Luther said. "You want to see progress and we've done that. Four months into it, I'm pleased."
Senior Sean Vessah said, "Last year there was a lot of negativity with the players, and that was hard. It was tough to get motivated."
Luther and his staff have moved toward more of a teaching method and it appears to be working.
"We've learned a lot; these coaches are teaching us not only what to do, but why to do it," said senior Griffin Leedy. "We have to go into the season confident and trusting our coaches, because that trust will translate onto the field."
With any new coach comes a different look.
Fans will see a difference mostly on offense, because the Trojans will use a no-huddle, spread attack from a shotgun formation.
Luther said, "We're going to keep it basic and try to execute a number of plays well instead of having a ton of plays. It's similar to other spread offenses, but with our own spin. As the season goes along and the players get more comfortable with it, we hope to change the pace of the game."
Quarterback, of course, is a big key to that type of offense, and at that position Luther has options.
Junior Kaden Hoover got plenty of playing time last year, hitting 66 of 136 passes (48.5%) for 783 yards, five touchdowns and eight interceptions. But he is getting competition from sophomore Tyler Collier - who at 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds has spectacular size - and junior Bailey Leedy.
"They all have good potential," Luther said. "Our quarterback will have to make pre-snap reads and post-snap reads, so it's geared more toward a college perspective. They'll have to make decisions on the fly. We're asking a lot of them, and we know they will make mistakes. But they've made big strides and we're happy with where they are."
The offensive line has good experience and good size, and that's always a great starting point for a high school team. Returning veterans include Kelton Chastulik (G, 6-2, 270), Derek Moore (T, 6-4, 250), Myles Braxton (G, 5-11, 310), Wade Stickell (C, 6-0, 220) and Xavier Navarro (C, 5-10, 250), while Noah Wright (G, 6-0, 275) and Tucker Karn (T, 5-11, 220) will see time.
The top skill players all saw some action last year, but were not starters. Tight ends are Griffin Leedy (10 cataches, 90 yards), Vessah (9-72), wide receivers are Spencer Seaman (6-79) and Austin Kopp (2-17), plus Seth Brouse and Bryan Bell, tailbacks Clay Myers (6-107) and Kammeron Green (6-6) and fullbacks Jack Kunkleman and Andrew Shetter.
Chambersburg is in good shape in the kicking department with two-year starter Nazeer Taylor, who has 10 career field goals to his name.
"We put a lot of time into special teams," Luther said. "If you can win that phase of the game, and either offense or defense, you're in good shape."
The defensive line has plenty of experience, with Chastulik, Braxton, Navarro and Griffin Leedy all returning. Philippe Lozius also saw action, and Tyler Akers, Tyron Williams and Bryan Otero will help out.
"We want to be able to rotate and keep them all fresh," Luther said.
Senior Mason Deshong (5-11, 240) returns at middle linebacker, and he will be flanked by two from a group that includes Myers, Luke Wetzel, Jace Hopple, Jarrett Secrist, Nate Reed and Bailey Leedy.
The secondary will include Kopp, Kunkleman, Brouse, Bell and Green at corner, Vessah and Justin Reichenbaugh at strong safety and Seaman and Hoover at free safety.
"We're going to put the best 11 players on the field," Luther said.
And trust that's good enough to be a contender.
Coach: Mark Luther, first year.
Returning starters: Kelton Chastulik (sr., 6-2, 270, G/DE, P.O. First Team all-star); Myles Braxton (sr., 5-11, 310, G/DT, P.O. Second Team); Griffin Leedy (sr., 6-0, 190, TE/DE, P.O. Second Team); Sean Vessah (sr., 6-0, 200, TE/S, P.O. Second Team); Mason Deshong (sr., 5-11, 215, MLB); Nazeer Taylor (jr., 5-8, 155, PK/P); Derek Moore (jr., 6-4, 250, OT/DE); Xavier Navarro (jr., 5-10, 250, C/DT); Wade Stickell (jr., 6-0, 220, C); Kammeron Green (sr., 5-8, 160, TB/CB); Spencer Seaman (jr., 5-8, 150, WR/S); Austin Kopp (jr., 5-9, 150, WR/CB); Kaden Hoover (jr., 6-1, 170, QB/S); Philippe Lozius (sr., 5-8, 220, DE).
Other top players: Tyler Collier (so., 6-6, 200, QB); Noah Wright (jr., 6-0, 275, G/DT); Tucker Karn (so., 5-11, 220, T); Seth Brouse (so., 6-0, 165, WR/CB); Bryan Bell (sr., 5-11, 175, SE/CB); Clay Myers (jr., 5-11, 195, TB/LB); Jack Kunkleman (jr., 5-8, 160, FB/DB); Andrew Shetter (so, 5-8, 205, FB); Tyler Akers (jr., 6-1, 225, DT); Tyron Williams (jr., 6-0, 240, DL); Bryan Otero (sr., 5-10, 2320, DL); Luke Wetzel (jr., 6-0, 200, LB); Jace Hopple (jr., 5-10, 200, LB); Jarrett Secrist (jr., 5-9, 175, LB); Nate Reed (jr., 6-2, 200, LB); Bailey Leedy (jr., 6-0, 165, QB/LB); Justin Reichenbaugh (jr., 5-8, 160, S).
Predicted record: 3-7
In the huddle
Stadium: Trojan Stadium
Location: At the high school, along McKinley Street.
Ticket prices: Reserved seats $5.50. General admission $5 for adults, $3 for students and seniors. Gold card (for all Trojan home events) is $60.
Sept. 2 — Greencastle-Antrim, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 — Shippensburg, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 — at Red Lion, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 — Cumberland Valley, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 — at Cent. Dauphin East, 7 p.m.
Oct. 8 — at Harrisburg, 1 p.m.
Oct. 14 — Cedar Cliff, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 — at Central Dauphin, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28 — State College, 7 p.m.
Nov. 4 — at Carlisle, 7 p.m.
L // Greencastle-Antrim // 32-29 OT
L // Shippensburg // 26-21
L // Lower Dauphin // 38-0
L // Central Dauphin // 42-7
L // State College // 38-10
W Mifflin County // 28-7
L // CD East // 42-3
L Carlisle 49-35
L Harrisburg 38-34
L Cumberland Valley 48-7