Chatham made some strides, winning three games in 2014. In 2013, the Cougars lost all 10 of their games and had a 21-game losing streak hang over their heads. The program, including 20 seniors who were 9-1 as freshmen, hopes to take another positive step this fall.
“We were learning with our mistakes,” head coach Jason Izsa said. We just want to be in a position to win the games. If we limit the big plays for scores and play ‘bend, but don’t break’ defense, we should be in good shape.”
Senior Alex Sands returns for his third year as the Cougars’ starting quarterback. Senior Matt Nestler, who rushed for more than 600 yards last fall, is also back for his third year as the Cougars’ main running back.
Seniors Brian Brady, Chris Bredahl, Robbie Moskowitz and Justin Hayes and junior Timmy Adams are all quality pass catchers for Sands to throw to in the Cougars’ spread attack.
The tight end is senior Brian Barnett, who can also line up as a wide receiver.
“We don’t know who wants to be the leader,” Izsa said. “We have guys who lead by talent alone. They’ve been on the field for three years. They should know what a leader should and shouldn’t be. This is the year we believe we can go out and be more competitive. We just need a leader. Last year, we won a few games. Now we can go out and compete. We have to stay healthy and we’ll see what happens.”
The offensive line features returning senior starters Colin Ness and Jahanzab Khan at tackle, with senior Nick Zack, senior David Vivona and junior Graham LaMon at guard, and senior Michael Kellstrom at center.
The Cougars will use a 3-5 defense to capitalize on their athleticism.
Khan, LeMon, Kellstrom and Ness will all see time at defensive tackle, with LeMon and Kellstrom alternating at the nose guard. The linebackers are strong, with Nestler back, along with Zack and Barnett. Barnett was the team’s leading tackler last year with 75 tackles. Seniors Luke Sukiennick and Dylan Ott are the other linebackers in the unique set. Hayes and Adams are the cornerbacks, with Brady at safety.
“We can get it done this year,” Izsa said. “We expect to be better. Now we have to see it happen.”
Head coach: Jason Izsa, third season
Stadium: Cougar Field
Colors: Blue and white
Classification: North 2 Group III
Offensive formation: Spread
Defensive formation: 3-5 front
2014 record: 3-7
Returning veterans: Alex Sands (Sr., QB, 5-10, 160); Matt Nestler (Sr., RB-ILB, 5-8, 175); Ryan Barnett (Sr., TE-OLB, 6-3, 210); Colin Ness (Sr., OG-DT, 6-0, 265); Brian Brady (Sr., WR-S, 5-10, 165); Chris Bredahl (Sr., WR, 5-9, 150); Michael Kellstrom (Jr., C-DE, 5-10, 245); Dylan Ott (Sr. LB, 5-9, 150); Tim Adams (Jr., WR-CB, 5-7, 130); Jahanzab Khan (Sr., OT-DE, 6-1, 210); Nick Zack (Sr., ILB, 5-9, 175); David Vivona (Sr., OG, 5-11, 190).
Promising newcomers: Justin Hayes (Sr. RB-WR-CB, 5-10, 170); Luke Sukiennick (Sr. LB, 5-11, 190); Robbie Moskowitz (Sr. WR, 5-10, 175); Graham LaMon (Jr. OG-DT, 6-1, 230).
Outlook: Chatham will take yet another step toward respectability, with a solid senior class that has a decent amount of experience. The Cougars taken their lumps over the last two years, but are poised to make a statement this season.