“There were several games last season where we were maybe one or two plays away from getting another win or two. I’ve never believed that more than I did during the offseason, looking back at it,” said coach Cody Baugh, whose squad went 1-9 in 2018.
The main components returning are quarterback Collin Trent, wide receiver Jonas Leeper, safety Connor Smith, linebacker Micah Jones and lineman Caleb Haun. Baugh noted that sophomore Brayden Collins also could make an immediate impact at the tight end position.
They’re among the standouts on a 70-player- strong roster.
“For us this is a very large team. We only had one or two jersey numbers left when it was all said and done,” Baugh said. “That’s one thing I look at is how many jerseys we have left over.
“I feel like that’s a good thing and we only have 11 seniors. That few seniors for a 5A school and us to still have that many kids is pretty good.
“We have to prevent the big play and we were young last year for the most part on defense,” he added. “We’re going to have to get better at that if we want to win.”
The Chiefs break in the new season with a pair of nonconference games, at home against Union County and on the road at Sullivan South. The Patriots reached the 4A playoffs last season for the first time since 2000, and the Rebels are expected to be one of the premier teams in Northeast Tennessee.
“It starts with Union County and they’re going to give us six or seven possessions the whole game,” Baugh said. “We have to take advantage of every one of those possessions because if we don’t, we’re going to be in for a long one.
“If we ran the ball a lot, that game would be over in 45 minutes. Union County has gotten a lot better and they’ve got a coach that has been around the block and knows how to make things happen.”
Cherokee’s home schedule pans out nicely. The Chiefs are home against Hawkins County rival Volunteer as well as regional foes David Crockett and Daniel Boone.
Road tests come against Elizabethton, Cocke County and Tennessee High.
Aug. 23 Union County
Aug. 30 at Sullivan South
Sept. 6 at Morristown East
Sept. 13 Morristown West
Sept. 20 Volunteer
Sept. 27 at Elizabethton
Oct. 4 at Cocke County
Oct. 11 David Crockett
Oct. 25 at Tennessee High
Nov. 1 Daniel Boone