Central’s football team has a lot of experience coming back at the skilled positions this season, but there are still enough question marks to give a little concern for how the Chargers may fare this year.
Overall, though, head coach Bart Helsley and the Chargers’ fans have to feel good about the potential success of the team as practices begin this week.
No doubt, the leader of the pack is returning quarterback Jake McClurg, who will be one of several three-year starters. McClurg has continued to develop and has rushed for about 1,500 yards and passed for 2,000 over the last two seasons, Helsley said.
“I like his balance,” Helsley said. “He’s a guy that can run and throw and gives us a dual threat. What I like most about him is that he’s a competitor. He makes things happen.”
McClurg was instrumental in leading Central to a bi-district round playoff appearance last year. But he won’t do it again on his own.
Also back are other three-year starters Elijah Britton and Austin Waymon on the offensive line. Joey Kammerer will also be up front with ample experience from last year.
A total of six starters return on offense, and Central has to be pleased that one of them is running back K.T. Smeby. “K.T. is our go-to guy,” Helsley said.
With Central running multiple-back sets, Brenton Perez will see plenty of action as well. In some sets, including the use of an H-back, expect to see Jordy Henrotin step in.
McClurg’s biggest challenge may be what receivers he has to target. The receiver corps is young, but in the early going, sophomore Matt Simmons will be a likely focus and the use of tight end Jaxson Nichols may become more common. Others who figure into the arsenal are tight end Harlan Adame and receivers Corey Contino and Nathan Batoba.
McClurg said the recent spring workouts were the best of his time at Central.
“We learned new offensive variations,” McClurg said. “It’s a new approach and having new guys will help.”
A key defensive player, Taylor Robinson could also figure into the offense, but his value in the secondary is key. “I love any time I can get on other side of the ball,” Robinson said. “I always bug him (Helsley) about it.”
Robinson tied the school record with nine interceptions last year has made a verbal commitment to North Texas.
Robinson is another three-year starter along with L.J. Mason at defensive end and Collin Wright at linebacker. Mason had earned All-District honors last year. Those three returners on defense will need to become the glue but will be joined by others who logged significant time last year.
Danny McGuire, moving from to linebacker from end, Marshall Parks at nose guard, and Philip Frost at a corner are some of the projected starters on defense, along with Henrotin at safety and linebackers Alex Foster and Anthony Gaut. Ryan Rambo and Josh Cilumba should also see time in the secondary.
Helsley noted a few spots are still up for grabs on each side of the ball. “There’s definitely experience in the defensive line and linebackers but the secondary is where the least amount of experience is,” he said.
Logan Dierking, a junior kicker, figures into the special teams.
“One of our keys (to a successful season) is special-teams play,” Helsley said. “Dierking has a strong leg but we’re still searching for a punter and deep snapper – two critical spots not filled yet. It goes unnoticed, but if it’s not good, it’s hard to be successful.
The senior leadership will be another intangible, Helsley said. That will be in high demand in the new 5-6A district.
Central will scrimmage Irving Nimitz the morning of Aug. 22 at the Keller ISD Stadium before kicking off for real at home on Aug. 29, hosting L.D. Bell.