By Phil Anastasia
Last season: 6-4 (2-3 in WJFL American)
Countdown to Kickoff: Cherokee
Coach: P.J. Mehigan (94-27 in 11 seasons)
Opener: vs. Lenape Sept. 12 at 7
Fast fact: Cherokee has won eight South Jersey titles, including back-to-back Group 4 crowns in 2009 and 2010
Player to watch: Senior quarterback Trevor Osler (pictured). He passed for 1,259 yards and 12 TDs as a junior. He is part of a seasoned senior group determined to push Cherokee back into South Jersey prominence.
Outlook: The Chiefs have a solid senior corps that went through some growing pains as young players in the unforgiving WJFL American in 2011 and 2012. Cherokee went 7-3 in 2011 and 6-4 last season, missing the playoffs both times. Last year's team won its final four games and the Chiefs hope to carry that momentum into this season. Leading the way will be senior TE/DE Jake Powell, a Delaware recruit. He had 35 catches for 440 yards and 5 TDs last season. He likely will be Osler's favorite target, although defenses know that and probably will shade their coverage to account for the big tight end. That could open up some things on the outside. Senior RB Matt Stickney ran for 566 yards and 6 TDs and junior RB Marc Woodard ran for 541 yards and 6 TDs. The OL is anchored by seniors Chase Hoger and Kyle Naddeo and junior Dan Iannone, who also will play NG. The 6-3, 260-pound Iannone saw a lot of action as a sophomore and could be on the verge of a break-out season. He already has tested out as the strongest player in the history of the program and recently benched 405 pounds. The defense returns a lot of veterans such as senior DLs Marc Adams and Troy Domenick and DBs such as Rob Agnoni and Anthony Gambone. Soph LB Evan Powell is a young player to watch. And the Chiefs have a major weapon in senior kicker Kenny Ravel, who was 23-for-26 in PATs and made 4 FGs last season. This looks like a team that will challenge Williamstown and Eastern for the American Division title, and could contend for the SJ 5 crown as well.
Schedule: On paper, the Chiefs have a chance to get off fast as the first two games are against rebuilding squads Lenape and Triton. Cherokee visits Williamstown in a key game Sept. 27 and hosts school-district rival Shawnee Oct. 18 and Eastern Oct. 25. The last three regular-season games are against Pennsauken, CH East and Seneca.
Quote: "These guys have zero wins in the playoffs and I'm going to constantly remind them of that," Mehigan said.
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