That’s the difference 17th year Cherryvale Chargers head coach Harry Hester feels between what could have been a 6-3 record, but finishing with a 3-6 overall record and missing the playoffs.
“We had three seniors returning last year. All spots were wide open and opportunities available. Due to injuries and other issues, we had a lot of players get varsity experience.” Said Hester.
The 2019 team hopes to not only avoid injuries but also build on the experience last year’s challenges faced.
In what is arguably one of the deepest teams in the Tri-Valley League in terms of returning starters, the Chargers will have lots of experience to propel them back into the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
Cherryvale boasts 14 offensive starters, 13 defensive starters and 20 total returning letterman. However, only 7 of them are seniors.
“The underclassmen stepped up for their turn under the Friday Night Lights last season, and that experience will benefit them this year.” Noted Hester.
All-League Offensive Lineman Seth Mahurin, along with Honorable Mentions Gavin Hooper, Jacob Bone return for Cherryvale. Mahurin was also named All-League Honorable Mention as a linebacker.
Senior Gavin Hooper will move into the quarterback spot for the Chargers with senior Wyatt Raida and Wyatt Gillman getting a majority of the carries with senior Deonta Grief contributing as well.
“Both (Raida & Gillman) should contribute heavily. We will need to pick one early and get the other on the field in another position.”
The Charger offense will have all six starters back upfront, which will pay dividends for the multiple offense scheme they run and keep the line fresh.
Senior Seth Mahurin and Cord Dodson will lead the pack with juniors Kolbyn Hooper, Bryce Salle, Brayden Bigley and freshman Jacob Bone all returning as well.
On the defensive side of the ball, Cherryvale will have plenty of options, including moving some around if necessary to get the best 11 on the field.
Upfront Gillman, Dodson, Hooper, Salle, Bigley, and Bone will double on the front defensive line.
The linebacking core will return starters Mahurin and Waida, but they will have senior Devonta Grief, junior Bradlee Morris, and Ian Oscoto and underclassman Gavin Strickland, Clifton Sinclair, and Tobin Cannon all looking to fight for a starting spot.
The secondary for Cherryvale looks to be just as competitive with seniors Gavin Hooper and Zaine Lantz along with juniors Noah Stoddard and Chet Linn returning. Chomping at the bits for a starting spot are juniors Gage Vigil, Trey Leedy, Michael Coats, and underclassman Briggs Adkinson and Austin Hooper.
The 2019 schedule will not be an easy one for Cherryvale.
The Chargers will play two of their three non-district games on the road along with traveling to three of their five district games.
Cherryvale will play host to long-time league rival Caney Valley in the season opener, begin district play with Belle Plaine and finish the year at home in the regular season with Douglass.
However, with the experience that Cherryvale returns expectations are high for a playoff appearance in 2019 given the competitive nature of the Tri-Valley.
“Five teams made the playoffs last year (from the Tri-Valley League) with Humboldt making the semifinals in Class 2A” mentioned Hester.
Follow the Cherryvale Chargers Football team and their results all season long on the Eastern Kansas Sports team page.