The Pirates’ resume lists 15 conference titles, five sectional championships and one regional crown, including four conference championships and a sectional title under current head coach Jason Hawkins.
So what’s in store for 2016?
“Every year we look and try to be, we should be, expect to be good,” Hawkins said. “This year is going to be no different than any other year.”
And for good reason. On average, Hawkins has guided Charlestown to more than eight wins in each of his eight seasons with the Pirates and owns a 68-23 overall record with the program – good for second on the all-time wins list.
With key skill-positions players back and seven returners on defense, things are looking up for the boys in blue yet again after an 8-3 mark in 2015. Last season, however, failed to yield any hardware. After an upset of Heritage Hills in the sectional opener, Charlestown dropped a 44-19 decision to Brownstown in the semifinals.
Losing to the Braves has been a reoccurring theme for the Pirates as of late. Brownstown is responsible for five of Charlestown’s 10 losses in the past three seasons, including two of three last year. The Braves are 5-1 against the Pirates in that span.
Brownstown, Hawkins said, is the proverbial hump Charlestown needs to hurdle in order to hoist more trophies.
“Right now Brownstown’s the best team in our conference,” he said, “and probably one of the best teams in our sectional. If I had to rate us, Brownstown’s ahead of us right now, and until I see something different, they have to be predicted to win those things.”
The Pirates will have a shot to reverse that trend as early as Week 2 when the Braves come to town. However, Charlestown opens its season at Madison, a team that can’t be overlooked despite its 0-10 record a season ago. The Pirates edged the Cubs by just one point in last season’s opener at home.
“You’re going to have to bring it every Friday night,” Hawkins said. “And if you don’t bring it, we’re looking at winning four or five games. If we do bring it, we can be a little bit better than that. Every week is a challenge. We’re not looking past anyone.
“Right now we’re worried about Madison.”
Charlestown quarterback Brendan Lawler (left) eludes the tackle of Silver Creek’s Josh Thompson (right) last season.
Taking the field against Madison next Friday will be some familiar faces from a season ago in quarterback Brendan Lawler, senior running back Antonyo Gaddie, senior receiver Garrett Woods and senior linebacker Simon Woolridge, to name a few.
Lawler tallied 1,677 all-purpose yards last season – 980 passing and 697 rushing – and 23 total touchdowns for the fast-paced Pirates. Gaddie rushed for 1,119 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2015 and owns two of the program’s 24 1,000-yard rushing seasons. He ran for 1,409 yards in 2014.
“We have a lot of talent on offense,” Lawler said. “So I don’t think it’ll be a problem scoring any points.”
The 6-foot, 180-pound quarterback will line up at defensive back on the other side of the ball, alongside Garrett Woods, the Pirates’ leading receiver last season. Gaddie will play linebacker next to the team’s leading returning tackler Simon Woolridge. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder had 69 total tackles last season, including a team-high 43 solo.
Charlestown also welcomes back 5-foot-10, 200-pound linebacker Bradley Laffoon, who had 70 total tackles and two forced fumbles for the Pirates as a sophomore before transferring to Lincoln County in Kentucky for the 2015 season, where he garnered Associated Press All-State honorable mention honors. Hawkins said Laffoon will continue to be a key component of the Pirates’ defense in 2016.
The head coach also tabbed senior Shane Phillips, senior Cody Stumler, junior Blake Van and senior Jacob VanMeter as some linemen who’ve impressed him this summer. The Pirates return just one starter off the line from last season.
“We’ve had a pretty good summer,” he said. “But at the end of the day, summer doesn’t mean anything. We have to get to the season, get to the first game and go from there.”
Waiting for that first game can cause some anxiety, Hawkins said. But it’s no different than any other season – the team is ready to live up to expectations.
The coaches and players aren’t the only ones that set lofty goals for the team, either. The school, and most importantly the entire community is accustomed to that success, something Hawkins relishes.
“Charlestown is a football community,” Hawkins said. “They care about football. They want us to do well. To be a part of that, to coach at a school that loves football and wants you to do well, is a good feeling.”
Charlestown football at a glance
Conference: Mid-Southern, Class 3A
Coach: Jason Hawkins – 68-23 in 8 seasons at Charlestown
2015 record: 8-3 – lost to Brownstown in sectional semifinal 44-19