A member of the Missouri Coaches Hall of Fame, Charlie Vickery has brought a new level of excitement to the program since joining his alma mater last season.
Vickery's steady hand has helped lead the Red Devils to strong turnouts for the team and its summer weight program. While the results did not come last year, Vickery seems to be the right coach to help make Chaffee competitive.
"We know them better, know their abilities a lot better. Being with them for over a year, we started the offseason in December and went to some weight meets," Vickery said. "We had good turnout over the summer. We're definitely bigger, faster and stronger.
"We only had one way to go, but the kids have worked hard."
Junior running back Kent Courtney showed glimpses of breakaway speed as the featured tailback last year.
Courtney rushed for 766 yards last year despite facing defenses stacked up to stop him. At 6 feet and 175 pounds, Courtney has the build to take a pounding and the athleticism and speed to avoid hits as well.
"We've got some kids that are pushing him at running back," Vickery said. "Last year, it was pretty much just him. Right now, we're pretty deep at running back. I feel pretty confident. We're pretty deep in all our skill people."
In three winless seasons the Red Devils have had to plug sophomores, juniors and sometimes freshmen into the lineup on a frequent basis.
Keeping many of those players around as seniors had been a challenge, but the Red Devils will have 12 seniors this season.
"Even really good freshmen and sophomores, it's difficult for them to step up and compete," Vickery said. "I've seen some very good players that were very good as seniors that were average sophomores. There is a big difference. We have a lot of juniors and seniors to rely upon. ...
"It allows them [freshmen and sophomores] to play JV ball and get some good experience. It was a vicious cycle. They would play as freshmen and sophomores and they'd get beat up so much they didn't come back as juniors and seniors."
Whether added to the schedule by design or not, Rector (Ark.) should provide the Red Devils a game in which they may be favored.
Rector finished last season 0-9 and barely had 20 players on its roster. While the Red Devils should have chances to win before the Week 4 meeting, the Sept. 22 game could be a big one for Chaffee.
"Every game's going to be a challenge when you're coming off 0-10," Vickery said. "We look at every game as a challenge and go in looking to win it. I really think we can compete. I know we're much better. How many wins that comes to depends on how much better other teams are."
For a team without a win in more than three seasons, Chaffee's players and coaches have a positive outlook heading into the seasons.
The hard work the players have put in during the offseason, along with continued surging numbers all point to positive signs for the struggling program.
"I think they think they can win," Vickery said. "Last year, I didn't quite get that feeling. I really believe our juniors and seniors believe they can win. We need something good to happen early, and if that happens I think we'll be just fine."
A key factor in many successful programs is that the players know how to win.
Chaffee's current group does not have a player who has experienced a varsity win. That intangible could hurt the Red Devils in a close game.
"We're not acting like we're 0-10, we're 0-0," Vickery said. "These guys are 0-0. You go into it with that attitude and that's how your're going to be."
The institution of weight program before last season helped toughen up the Red Devils to an extent last season, but lack of team speed was a problem for Chaffee.
Teams were able to exploit that lack of speed with big plays throughout the season. Grandview nearly had three players rush for more than 100 yards in its opening-game win over Chaffee. In order for the Red Devils to stay in games, their team speed will have to improve.
"We had two kids last year at this time that ran under 5.0," Vickery said in reference to 40-yard dash times. "This year we have 11. Overall team speed is better."
Despite a renewed dedication to the weight room and improved team strength, Chaffee will again feature a fairly small squad.
This year's squad has just nine players list at 6-0 or taller, and 10 players listed at 200 pounds or more. Unless a growth spurt hits, Chaffee will have to live with this problem.
"We can't do anything about that," Vickery said.
Chaffee's numbers are as high as they've been in years, there is a positive attitude among coaches and players, and the team showed signs of improvement last year, but with the losing streak at 34 games, the question remains whether the squad can continue to stay positive.
Just two seasons ago the Red Devils only had about 25 players and the attitude surrounding the program seemed grim. If the Red Devils suffer through another winless season, it could be a challenge to keep the enthusiasm around the program alive.
"I feel a positive vibe around the school," Vickery said. "We're not in the minority anymore. By that, I mean these guys are becoming the leaders. The doers are becoming the leaders instead of the non-doers. I don't mean just football, the athletes overall."
The Red Devils appear to have some winnable games on their schedule this season, but competing for a district title against the likes of St. Vincent and Hayti appears out of reach at this point.
Chaffee's last district title came in 1983, a year in which Chaffee won the state title. In recent years, Chaffee has not been competitive in district play. Replacing defending district champion Valle Cathloic with Portageville this season might help, but competing for a district title is still likely a few seasons away.
"We're looking at the first game, then looking at the second game. We're not looking anywhere past the first game," Vickery said. "We have a great opportunity because we have a chance to play a game. You get 10 opportunities."