That is a trait any Chambersburg football coach must have. Mark Luther is finding that out as the Trojans enter his second season at the helm of a program that has struggled to find much success lately.
Chambersburg was 1-9 last year. Luther believes his team is stronger physically after a good offseason in the weight room. There has been an infusion of talent thanks to the arrival of a sophomore class that has tasted plenty of wins over the past couple of seasons. Both the offense and defense return seven or eight players with plenty of experience gained last year.
And yet …
At least four returning players expected to start have suffered injuries and are likely out for the season — Derek Moore, Spencer Seaman, Austin Kopp and Jack Kunkleman. At least three others players who may have started decided not to play. And, of course, there is the matter of facing the Trojans’ daunting schedule again — last year eight of their 10 opponents qualified for the playoffs — the strongest schedule in District 3.
“The hope is we can win some football games, and that can make a difference with the guys on the team and the kids in school,” Luther said. “We are a better football team than last year, but we still are not where we need to be … and there is still a ways to go.”
What scrimmages against York and East Pennsboro have shown is that the offense appears to be improved from 2016, but the defense still needs plenty of work.
The focal point on offense is 6-foot-7, 219-pound quarterback Tyler Collier, who took his lumps as a sophomore. Collier, who is quite likely the biggest QB Chambersburg has ever had, must improve his accuracy throwing the football to keep opposing defenses on their toes.
Luther said, “Tyler has definitely improved. He understands better we’re asking him to do with pre-snap and post-snap reads. That was a lot for a sophomore. Last year, teams knew we couldn’t complete passes so they filled the box to stop the run.”
The top returning running back is Clay Myers (sr., 5-11, 188), who put together some impressive games last year. He is backed up by Tucker Heckman (sr., 5-6, 153) and promising sophomore Keshawn Jones (5-8, 168), who brings a home run element.
“He can change a game by breaking a big one,” Luther said of Jones.
The receiving corps includes some decent height, including Devin Carbaugh (sr., 5-10, 176), Seth Brouse (jr., 6-1, 181), Cota Heckman (sr., 6-1, 190), Justin Reichenbach (sr., 5-9, 178), Terell Williams (sr., 6-0, 225) and Steven Swain (sr., 6-1, 185).
Luther said, “We have a lot of athletes in that group. We need those guys to make more plays for us to open up the running game.”
The offensive line will be hurt by the absence of Moore, a two-year starter. But Noah Wright (sr., 6-0, 293), Wade Stickell (sr., 6-1, 207), Tucker Karn (jr., 5-11, 249) and Tyron Williams (sr., 6-1, 279) have experience and sophs Brock Harmon (5-11, 259) and Tucker Eiker (5-9, 202) are bucking for playing time.
Luther said, “I think there’s been a marked improvement in the offense, and being able to move the ball. We need some consistency and we need to make plays throwing the ball, because that will loosen everything else up.”
Nazeer Taylor returns for his senior season as the placekicker and punter — his fourth year as the team’s kicker.
“He’s very beneficial to us,” Luther said, “because if we can get to the other team’s 30-yard line we can think about the potential of three points.”
Points will be essential because the Trojan defense appears to be a work in progress.
“We’re still trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together,” Luther said.
The defensive end candidates include Carbaugh, Karn, Stickell, Eiker and Levi Rivers (jr., 5-11, 227). Wright, Eiker, Harmon and Tyron Williams will play inside.
At linebacker, Chambersburg is looking at returners Jarrett Sechrist (sr., 5-9, 172), Andrew Shetter (jr., 5-8, 211) and Bailey Leedy (sr., 6-0, 165), as well as Myers and Terell Williams.
Brouse, a starter last year, Jones and Jaime Ramos (jr., 5-6, 152) are the cornerbacks, Reichenbach is the strong safety and Swain and Heckman are vying at free safety.
Luther said, “We’ll rotate a lot up front because those guys are playing offensive line, too. Among the linebackers, we’re struggling to find guys who will step up and make plays. The key on defense is getting off the field on third downs — we did not do that well last year.”
If the Trojans’ offense makes strides this year and the defense can find itself, that will go a long way toward the possibility of an improvement in the win column. Which could make that optimism a little more realistic.