published Friday, August 19th, 2011

Football Preview: Chattanooga Christian expects first winning season

CCS receiver Joseph Miller said the key for the Chargers will be winning close games.
CCS receiver Joseph Miller said the key for the Chargers will be winning close games.
Photo by Angela Lewis.

CHATTANOOGA CHRISTIAN CHARGERS

Coach: Barry Loyal (5-15 here and overall)

Returning starters (O/D/K): 7/5/2

Remember these names: Loyal has been hammering away on a team concept, but two players must produce if the Chargers are to reach their goal — quarterback Levi Corbett (Jr., 6-1, 185), who threw for 917 yards in a part-time role last year, and receiver/linebacker Beau Simmons (Sr., 6-1, 200), who had 66 catches for 1,036 yards. Don’t be surprised to see Austin Mansell (Soph., 6-1, 185) at quarterback if Corbett falters or running back Jay Sims (Jr., 6-2, 190), who started the last five games of 2010 and rushed for 401 yards and eight TDs.

Will be a memorable year if: The Chargers, in their third season of varsity competition, can finish with a .500 record. They’ve yet to get there and they’re aiming higher, of course, after falling a win shy when they dropped a close final game at Bledsoe last season. Most of the players are expecting to surpass .500.

Schedule

Aug. 19 at Boyd-Buchanan

Aug. 26 Lookout Valley

Sept. 2 at Notre Dame*

Sept. 9 at Polk County

Sept. 16 Sequatchie County*

Sept. 30 at Grundy County*

Oct. 7 Silverdale Baptist

Oct. 14 at Signal Mountain*

Oct. 21 Marion County

Oct. 28 Bledsoe County*

* District 7-AA game

Coach Barry Loyal thought his Chattanooga Christian team was very capable of getting its first winning season a year ago.

The Chargers came close, but even the returning players admit there weren't enough believers.

"We want to change our outlook," said senior running back Kyle Hixson. "In the past we psyched ourselves out. Coach talks about teams 'getting their swagger.' I don't think we have found that. But being a senior, it all comes into perspective."

Joseph Miller, at 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds the largest receiver in the Chargers' five-wide corps, said CCS found rough going against established teams in its 1-9 beginning as a varsity program in 2009.

"Then last year we were losing close games," he said. "There were three or four we could have won. We need to learn from what we did [wrong] last year and correct it this year.

"It wasn't so much inexperience last year. Some guys had that sense of urgency and the strength, but some felt we couldn't get through it. I hope [positive attitude is] something that comes with maturity."

The Chargers entered the last game of 2010 at Bledsoe County with a shot at the playoffs and a non-losing second season. They lost late, 25-21, to the District 7-AA champions.

"A win would have put us in the playoffs, and we ended up going down in the last few minutes," Miller recalled.

Coming so close provided a collective dose of adrenaline like a deep pass from quarterback Levi Corbett to Beau Simmons.

"We're more of a team and we have worked hard to improve our techniques," senior guard Michael Farlett said. "I think our teamwide goal is to become more of a team and then to win more games. We won four games last year. We want that first winning season."

Like his teammates, senior center Eric Griggs is tired of losing and tired of coming close but falling short.

"We have been building a program, and we almost had a winning season last year," Griggs said. "That last game decided if we'd go to the playoffs. We're bigger and stronger this year. There's more team unity, and we have learned that being friends with the guy next to you is a big deal when push comes to shove.

"Our first goal is to be a good Christian team, and the second is doing well this season with each other. Each of us has his own goals, but with each guy doing his best we are expecting at the least to have a winning season."

MEMORY LANE

In its first year of varsity football, little was expected from CCS. The Chargers struggled, losing their first eight games and four of those by more than 30 points, but they came through in No. 9, beating Whitwell 27-26.

“I remember a bunch of it. I think most of all that time stood still toward the end of the game,” Loyal said. “In the last couple of minutes they started down the field and went into overtime. The deciding point was kicked by junior Taylor Farrar. Ironically, Farrar suffered a broken bone in the 2010 preseason and never got to play again.

“We really played hard all year and we wound up with just three seniors [Will Card, Jordan Miller and Sam Cooper], so that game was really big for them. They worked so hard and especially helped with the younger guys.”

about Ward Gossett...

Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...

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