Head coach: Charles Hammon (23-23 in four years here; 45-73 overall)
Returning starters: 6 offensive, 6 defensive
Key players: RB/LB Lashaun Lester (5-9, 205), LB Malachi Mack (6-2, 210), DL Luis Medina (6-3, 285), ATH Jamarious Mosteller (6-0, 180), ATH Devin Price (6-2, 190).
Team strengths: Chattooga's veteran secondary has experience, skill and height. Senior cornerbacks Danny Bare and Tre Flowers, senior safety Price and junior safeties Mosteller and Dylan Woody all are 6-foot or taller, and each has two years of starting experience.
Team concerns: The early portion of the schedule is almost always tough for Chattooga, with the nonregion opponents typically from higher classifications. Being challenged is good, but being so outmatched there's no chance to learn how to compete can kill confidence, especially for younger players. The Indians must find a way to handle the first three games well enough to enter Region 7-AA play knowing what it takes to win and believing that's possible.
Newcomer to watch: Lester is a freshman who will begin his high school career with not only an opportunity to play but an expectation he can make an impact. He'll share time at tailback with sophomore E.J. Lackey (5-9, 175). Said Hammon: "I'm not fond of starting ninth-graders, but you know, the kid's 205 pounds and he bench-presses 230 and he runs well, and he's going to get a lot of time. He's going to be really, really good. He's a football player."
Season outlook: Two years ago, the Indians enjoyed a banner season that ended in the state quarterfinals — and was followed by the exit of 18 seniors.
While they weren't especially young last season, the Indians lacked starting experience, and it showed as they went from eight to four wins, though they did make the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
Hammon is confident a fifth straight postseason berth is a reasonable goal, and he saw a team more sure of itself continue to grow up in the offseason.
"They've all played," Hammon said. "We feel very optimistic going into this year."
One of the biggest losses from the 2017 roster is C.J. Martin. Now at West Georgia, he played multiple positions on offense, including quarterback, and was Chattooga's kicking game, handling all aspects of putting toe to leather.
While Price isn't being asked to handle kicking duties, he is one of the options at quarterback and a player the Indians can rally around. He has playing offers from all three service academies.
"That's saying a lot about the kid and his grades and his character," Hammon said.