Northwood Academy’s efforts on the gridiron went unrewarded with any victories in 2018 but the Chargers are a year stronger and return an experienced squad for second-year football coach Ryan Leaver.
The Chargers begin the regular season at home against Academic Magnet on Friday, Aug. 23.
“Because of the experience they gained last year and a strong offseason in the weight room as a group, our expectations are high,” Leaver said. “It’s about being able to overcome little bits of adversity. A lot of teams fall apart as things get hard. Our guys didn’t do that last year. It was more of a challenge for them to push themselves to see what they can do this year.”
On offense, essentially every projected starter is back from last year.
Quarterback Gabe Johnson has some experienced backs behind him in fullback Clayton Stancil and Tyler Gadsden. Ben O’Brien is another big back and tight end.
They’ll be churning for yards behind tackles Will Mullins and Conner McLeod, guards Drayton Huffman and Conner Burns and center Jacob Vicars.
“We will be multiple,” Leaver said. “We’ll go some three-back, some two-back and some one-back out of the gun and spread it out. Hopefully we won’t be in those situations where we have to spread it out very much. With all the returners we have on the offensive line we want to be able to run the ball.”
The wide receivers are Sheldon Watkins and Alex Garris.
As is typical for smaller football programs with 25 to 30 players, the Chargers have a large group of ironmen lining up on the other side of the ball, too.
Stancil and O’Brien are the ends while most of the offensive linemen will plug in at the tackle spots. Stancil was an all-region pick last season.
Vicars and Gadsden are at inside linebacker while Zach Heffner and Sullivan Watkins play outside on the second level.
The secondary is led by Dez Dwight from a safety spot. More defensive backs are Sheldon Watkins, Douglas Watson and Garris.
Dwight was an all-region pick last season.
On special teams, Luke Moore returns as the kicker and Burns the punter. Stancil will have a shot at a Div. I school as a long snapper.
The Chargers have five non-region games to start the 2019 campaign before traveling to Hilton Head Christian on Oct. 4 to start the region slate.
“Our region is going to be tough I have a feeling,” Leaver said. “Both of the Hilton Head programs have made progress. Orangeburg Prep is always a tough team with tough kids. John Paul is going through a coaching change but they’re returning a team that was in the state championship last year. I feel good about what we have but we know the road is going to be hard. It’s going to be interesting to see how our guys attack that.”