ROGERSVILLE — Cherokee is moving on following the loss of some very talented seniors from last year’s squad. As Chiefs coach Mike Sivert said, “That’s the nature of high school football.”
“It’s another year and, as always, things are different and there are lots of new faces,” Sivert said.
Cherokee’s biggest loss was at quarterback. The multitalented Ty Ryans has moved on to Virginia-Wise and his passing skills will be missed in Rogersville.
“We’ll still throw the ball,” Sivert said. “But now it will be more about opportunities to throw rather than throwing all out.”
What the Chiefs do have is a strong stable of returning running backs.
Evan McCracken, a 5-foot-10, 230-pound junior, is back along with seniors Chandler Jones (5-10, 181), Jacob Watson (6-0, 208) and Austin Claxton (5-9, 235) as well as sophomore Teagan Trent (5-10, 168).
“They all have a very good understanding of what we’re trying to do,” Sivert said. “They’ll all rotate in and out. It will definitely be running back by committee for us.”
Junior Ryan Gibson (6-1, 195), formerly Ryans’ understudy at quarterback, moves under center.
“He’s doing well so far,” Sivert said. “As he gains game experience, we’ll learn more.”
When Gibson does throw, he can go to the Chiefs’ top receiver from last season. Senior Tanner Trent (6-1, 179) returns, as does senior speedster Andrew Testerman (6-0, 176).
“All our running backs are receivers, too, so that should give us plenty of options,” Sivert said.
Up front, Cherokee returns three of its five starters along the offensive line. Seniors Dylan Heck (6-1, 263), Zane Parker (6-1, 234) and Landon Shaw (6-0, 221) started every game last season.
They are joined on the line by guards Peyton Greene (6-0, 252, Jr.) and John Livesay (5-11, 247, So.).
On defense, Cherokee returns seven players who saw action in a majority of last year’s games.
Will Russell (5-11, 190) is a three-year starter at linebacker along with fellow senior Zack Duncan (5-10, 230).
Senior Tyler Tunnell occupies plenty of space at nose guard. The 6-foot, 340-pounder presents a load for opposing offensive lines to handle.
“He did a good job for us last year and is moving well this year in spite of getting bigger,” Sivert said.
Testerman and both Trents bring experience to the defensive backfield.
So what is Sivert’s take on this year’s version of the Cherokee Chiefs?
“We won’t be as flamboyant as we have been recently,” he said. “It will be more of a team effort. We’ll rely on a lot of people to do a lot of things for us this season.
“Our strength will be our togetherness,” Sivert added. “We’ll have to be mentally tough. There’s just no leeway in our conference. Week to week it’s so highly competitive with such intense rivalries.
“Right now I’m very satisfied with how hard the guys have worked. They’re doing all the right things.”