The 0-0 Red Devils look to end 34-game skid

Friday, September 1, 2006
Chaffee's Dylan McAlister attempted to catch an overthrown pass during last Friday's jamboree scrimmage with Malden. (Don Frazier)

Chaffee has high hopes entering tonight's opener against Grandview.

Since nearly every high school football program approaches the start of a season with some sense of optimism, it should not be surprising the struggling Chaffee program is talking victory heading into tonight's opener at Grandview.

What may be different about this current Red Devils bunch is they believe they can, and they are looking to back up those words when kickoff rolls around at 7 p.m.

"We're going to win it. There's no doubt in my mind," senior quarterback Michael Lee said. "Everyone here believes we can win it, and more than just this game."

Grandview has won the past four season-openers against Chaffee, including last year's 24-6 win at Chaffee. During those four years the Red Devils have just one win -- in 2002 -- followed by three straight winless campaigns. With its recent history in mind, a Week 1 win would go a long way in preserving Chaffee's optimism.

"It's overly important this year, considering we're coming off a season without much success," Chaffee coach Charlie Vickery said. "We need to get one so they believe they can win, know they can win. We need to get one behind us. This game is a big one."

In Chaffee's favor is its large group of juniors and seniors, a rarity during the school's recent slide. Many of those players started last year, as the Red Devils have 10 returning starters on both sides of the ball. Chaffee has 40 players on its roster, also a high mark for recent years.

"I think we're improved in a lot areas," Vickery said. "We're more experienced, bigger, quicker and stronger. Only time will tell if we're better football players, but I think we are. We're just like everyone else right now. We just want to play a game to see what we've got."

Chaffee's 34-game losing streak is not a number the players and coaches are focused on. The Red Devils treat each game as an opportunity, and they have 10 opportunities to bring home a win.

"We're way farther than what we've been before," senior Zach McDaniel said. "It's like the coaches say, we're not 0-34, we're 0-0.

"I think the best way to put it," he added, "is we took one step back to take two steps forward."

In order to pick up that elusive win, the Red Devils will have to play better defense this season. Chaffee held an opponent to fewer than 30 points just twice last season.

Grandview did its damage in last year's meeting on the ground, rushing for more than 400 yards while not attempting a single pass. But the Eagles' top two rushers both graduated. Junior quarterback Gary Britton is the top returning threat for Grandview.

"They've got the same quarterback, and he's a good athlete," Vickery said. "He throws the ball well, and he's got some speed. I don't know much about them other than he's returning, but he's a good player. They've got some size up front from what it looked like on the jamboree tape. They looked good in the jamboree."

For the Red Devils, Lee returns at quarterback after throwing for 318 yards and two touchdowns while splitting time with Jeff Daugherty. Leading rusher Kent Courtney is coming off a 766-yard season in his debut for the Red Devils, including a 150-yard game against Grandview.

A commitment to the weight room, including the second year of Chaffee's summer lifting program, should help the Red Devils with increased strength and athleticism.

"One thing I'd say is our guys work hard," Vickery said. "Not just in practice, but in the offseason they did it and in the summer. So it's time for it to start paying some dividends."

For all of the positive steps Chaffee has taken, the Red Devils have not won anything yet, a fact Vickery is aware of.

"I think they believe they can win," he said. "Until we do, there's always that doubt."

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