By Kyle Daubs
Until Charleston High makes the playoffs, nobody will say that Trojan football is truly back.
However, after last year’s 4-2 season, which would have likely landed CHS a playoff spot for the first time since 2012, it was enough to convince some key athletes to return. Altogether, the football program boasts 15 seniors, four juniors, 25 sophomores, and 28 freshmen.
“The kids have a great attitude and there is a lot to look at,” said head coach Jerry Payne. “We lost a lot on both sides of the ball, but we have pretty good number of seniors, who played in the past that left the program, decided to come back and give it a shot. There could be nights that we have an all-senior starting lineup.”
The Trojans lost six All-Apollo selections, including three All-Apollo first team selections on both sides of the ball. That includes lineman Peyton Daugherty, running back/defensive back Cory Spour and wide receiver/cornerback Sam Schuette.
On offense, the Trojans lost their three top receivers from last year. In addition, All-Apollo second team member Drew Matheny graduated. Spour led the way in rushing with 594 yards and eight touchdowns.
Three seniors could compete for starting time at running back in Hunter White, Zayvion Johnson, and Jonathan Reed.
“The offensive line has been working pretty hard,” said Payne. “They have some pretty hefty shoes to fill. Brody Rankin is going to be a big part of that line. Alex Stout was solid on defense and helped step up to the offensive line. We have a couple of sophomores that are going to jump up into the mix that could play tonight, if they could.”
Behind the line will feature senior quarterback Jack Nelson, who Payne called an extra coach on the field. Nelson finished his final game of last season with four touchdowns.
“If I am out there and we are setting up a play, I look to Jack and make sure everything is right,” said Payne. “He knows everything going on. He has displayed solid leadership and has been dedicated to everything. He was selected as a captain by the coaching staff after an interview process. He’s worked with the sophomore and freshman quarterbacks. He’s a great leader.”
The receiving corps will boast two of the quickest runners from Charleston’s track team last season – Wyatt Strader just missed state in the long jump while Zach Stout ran about 54 seconds for the 400 meters. Hunter Hargus joins the senior trio.
Payne said that the mix of juniors and sophomores will be filling in.
“One thing I want to stress is that it’s going to change,” said Payne. The backups are incredibly important. They are going to be rotating in and out all game. We have a bunch of kids who have been working their tails off.”
On the defensive side, Strader will look to fill the void of Schuette, who had six interceptions, three forced fumbles, and 34 tackles. Jacob Flight and Seth Howell could see time, as well as Camden Myerscough and Luke Nelson at defensive back. Payne said there were about eight guys “that will roll in and out and help when needed.”
On special teams, senior kicker Connor Woodley is the No. 94 ranked punter in the country after competing at kicking camps all summer. Payne said that Woodley has kicked up to a 54-yard field goal in practice.
Charleston’s season was delayed after Robinson was hit hard by COVID, forcing the game’s cancellation. So the team, instead, will play a scrimmage this evening for two quarters. The Trojans will travel to take on Lincoln next week.
“It goes right back to our first goal and that was to win a game,” said Payne. “There is more pressure now. We have gone from three wins to four. The expectation is to go further. The kids are really focused about winning that first game of the season. You have to get that first win before you can win more.”
Payne is assisted by nine coaches. Former head coach Tyler Hanner will take over defensive play-calling duties after Payne took over calling the offense. Charleston added Collinsville and Salem to their non-conference schedule.
|Sept. 3||at LINCOLN||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 10||EFFINGHAM||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 17||at COLLINSVILLE||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 24||MAHOMET||7 pm.|
|Oct. 1||TAYLORVILLE (H-C)||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 8||MATTOON @ EIU||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 15||at MT. ZION||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 22||SALEM||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 29||IHSA PLAYOFFS||TBA|