When the Charter Oak High School football team practiced in pads for the first time on Wednesday, veteran head coach Lou Farrar was more concerned with recognizing who everyone was rather than sweating Xs and Os.
It’s going to take time for that to happen, which is expected when a team loses 28 seniors to graduation. But as another season approaches, Farrar likes what he sees in terms of talent, but remains cautious on just how much experience will be needed to let all the new faces shine.
“It’s kind of really hard to replace guys who are suiting up at Colorado or Wake Forest with a sophomore replacement,” Farrar said. “There’s a big dropoff between a Division 1 recruit and a sophomore. It’s about depth of guys who have played under the lights on Friday nights and we don’t have a whole lot of game experience that will be stepping on the field.
“A lot of young faces. Good athletes, good players, but just not a lot of Friday night game experience.”
Nowhere did the Chargers feel the sting of graduation more than on defense, where one of the best stop units in school history has to replace nine starters. Most of the back seven needs to be replaced. Charter Oak allowed just 11.5 points per game and held several opponents to season lows in points en route to going 10-2 and sweeping the Sierra League for a second consecutive season.
“Right now, I like our front four,” Farrar said. “We have a little bit of concern in our linebacker situation because we graduated all four of our all-league linebackers. And in our secondary, one of our corners is back. Our perimeter is definitely suspect right now, so we’ll have to get a a good pass rush going.”
Charter Oak’s defense figures to be built around the defensive line where reigning co-Sierra League Defensive MVP Eric Prevost is back along with Khylan Brooks. The secondary has plenty of athletes with corner Candy Nava back and Donavin Washington, who has an offer from Boise State, also returning with some experience on defense.
Washington figures to be the showcase weapon on offense where he will play running back and receiver. Senior Todd Greene is bidding to be the feature back and replace standout Aaren Vaughns. Sophomore Zion Echols is headed toward big things and will also play a big role on offense and probably assume a role on defense in the secondary.
It’s not all bad news for the Chargers, at least on offense, because of the return of Kory Brown at quarterback. Brown had some growing pains early last season while replacing standout Travis Santiago, but blossomed into a solid passer.
Despite the experience in key positions on offense, Farrar still prefers to count on his defense and will do so from the word “go.”
“I’m hoping our defense takes a little pressure off of our offense,” Farrar said. “I just hope they can play well enough – bend but not break – and give our offense a chance to keep regrouping and getting organized. This is our eighth week in a row of practicing, so our kids are pretty much up to speed on what we’re doing,”
Charter Oak has no Week 0 game, but will scrimmage Tustin and an old nemesis in head coach Greg Gano on Aug. 30. The Chargers open the season on Sept. 6 at home against Roosevelt of Eastvale. The highlight of the nonleague schedule comes on Sept. 20 when Charter Oak visits Bishop Amat in a rematch of a game that didn’t go too well for the Chargers last season.
Sierra League play begins for Charter Oak on Oct. 11 at home against Damien. The Chargers will get together with nearby South Hills for a Thursday night showdown on Oct. 24 in a game that should allow for plenty of fans to see both teams because of the night of the week it falls on.