Baylie Tharman | staff writer
After its first winning season in 24 years, the Charger football team is looking to continue its success.
“We remind the boys that last year is behind us,” coach Jess Rutledge said. “We have a very good season in front of us but we have to take advantage of those opportunities in order to continue to build on the momentum we established last year.”
One of Rutledge’s goals for this year is to go 1-0 every week. “All we are focused on is the opponent in front of us, nothing after that, nothing prior to that. Another goal would be to have back to back winning seasons. School record for wins in a season is 9. So we would like to chase that record. A district championship which hasn’t happened since 2013 here. And a playoff run. We’ve never gone past the second round of the playoffs. The ultimate goal: playing for a state championship,” Rutledge said.
The team has 35 players on the roster. The team graduated five seniors, but returns a majority of its varsity roster. Junior Wyatt Wurtz will take over as starting quarterback.
One of the leading tacklers from last season, junior Tate Deever has high hopes for the season. “ I’m really excited to see how we do this year. We are returning a lot of starters on defense and offense. We did lose five seniors but I think we have a chance to go to state this year and win. I really see us going far this year and doing well.’
The Chargers schedule features some new opponents, due to its placement in a district with teams including Smith Center, Sacred Heart, Republic County. Rutledge said that can pose a challenge. “Just not knowing what our opponents do. One of the things that has been nice about our schedule the last couple of years is as an assistant and a head coach we face those teams so you have a general idea of what their going to run offensively, defensively, special teams wise. So trying to figure out and adapt to different things that we’ll see will definitely be a difference this year.”
Entering his fifth year as head coach, Rutledge reflected on the state of the program. “At the start it was a little rough. We only had about 18 or 19 guys the first year that I was here. We’re at 35 on our football team now. So another thing that’s helped is the transition from a Mid-East League team to an independent team. But we are still playing highly ranked teams, very quality programs. Every year I’ve been a head coach we’ve played a team that’s won a state championship within the last five years. We are still playing solid competition, but it helps that we are playing schools that are our size.
The Chargers kick off the season Friday at Troy and open at home next week against Northern Heights.