A year ago Charlestown High School’s football team enjoyed a record-breaking season, easily winning its first 12 games before enduring a heartbreaking loss to Gibson Southern in the Class 3-A regionals.
Many of the players who had major roles in that steamroller are gone, especially on offense, but coach Jason Hawkins said he has some talented pieces with which to retool.
One of the biggest holes came from the departure of quarterback Aaron Daniel, one of the state’s top players a year ago and now a preferred walk-on at Indiana University. His numbers in 2012 were staggering: 2,075 yards, 36 touchdowns and just six interceptions through the air and 1,766 yards and 32 more TDs on the ground.
“It’s impossible to replace him,” Hawkins said.
The Pirates also lost all of Daniel’s favorite targets, plus running back Seth McCutcheon, who rushed for 1,489 yards.
“We not only lost one of the best football players to come out of this program, we lost all of them,” Hawkins said.
Center Austin Keith, a two-year starter, was to return, but he was injured in a car accident and won’t play.
“We not only lost the lead singer, we lost the entire band,” Hawkins said. “So we were expected to be a little behind on offense right now.”
But there is some good news. Eight starters are back on defense, led by senior lineman Jimmy Garcia, whom Hawkins described as “one of the best in the (Mid-Southern) conference.”
And one of the newcomers on the defensive line is 6-foot-1, 302-pound sophomore Quinten Fetz.
“He’s 300 and he can power clean (lift) 300,” Hawkins said. “He’s going to be a beast. He looks good.”
Charlestown is solid at linebacker with returning starters Matt Myers and Jake Harper, along with Darren Taylor.
At defensive back, the Pirates return Eli Daniel, Aaron’s brother, and Tate Boley. They also should be solid at safety with Alex Smith and Jason Houchens.
“We believe we’re going to be better defensively than we were last year,” Hawkins said, a noteworthy statement considering the Pirates allowed eight or fewer points in eight games last season.
He predicted the offense eventually will come around, too.
“We have some talent over there,” he said. “We’re trying to find our identity. We just have to figure out what we want to do. We’re young, but we have a lot of speed.”
Taylor should be one of the best playmakers.
“He can catch the ball; he can run the ball; he can throw the ball,” Hawkins said. “He’s one of the best players we’ve got.”
Taylor is one of three battling for the quarterback position, along with Tristan Chester and Antonyo Gaddie. Chester hasn’t played a varsity game and missed all of last season with a broken bone in his elbow but “has looked pretty good,” Hawkins said. “We really like his leadership skills.”
If neither Taylor nor Gaddie wins the quarterback job, they’ll play tailback, along with Syd Gieseking and Cameron Hopson.
“All of those guys will get carries,” Hawkins said.
“It’s a new year, a new team but same expectations,” the coach said. “We expect to be as good as we were last year at the end. That’s the goal.”