Brashers tackles youthful challenge

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Senior leadership, an important ingredient on any team, might be hard to find this year at Chaffee.

That's not a knock on the Red Devils' character as much as it is a statement of numbers.

The Red Devils will have exactly one more senior than their win total of a year ago. What makes that equation unappealing is that Chaffee, caught in a spiral of losing, went 1-9 last year.

For those tackling that word problem, that would be two seniors -- receiver Nick Powderly and lineman Marshall Hicks.

It's all part of the challenge facing new coach Terry Brashers, who's returning to the sideline after last coaching at Farmington in 1987.

"It's going to be difficult," Brashers said. "But with a new staff, we're very positive and excited about the challenge."

The program is facing an overall numbers crunch -- 29 players overall -- that will result in no freshman or junior-varsity teams this season.

That's not to say freshmen won't get playing time. They'll just be doing it at the varsity level.

It's all part of a picture that Brashers, who also coached at Charleston in the '80s, has not encountered in his coaching career.

"I've coached for 15 years, and I've never had a freshman on the varsity," Brashers said. "Never. Freshmen are freshmen. They have their own team and their own games. I've had outstanding sophomores that played, but I've never had a freshman that's had to step into a varsity situation.

"But Chaffee is a Class 1 school, and a lot of these kids expect to play because they see what's happened over the years."

The Red Devils will start three freshmen -- two in the backfield -- and two sophomores, including quarterback Jeff Daugherty (5-11, 185).

It's a situation that Brashers hopes to remedy in the future. His top priority since taking over has been to increase the numbers in a program that has not had a winning season since 1990. There is promise on the eighth-grade level, and Brashers hopes to push the numbers to over 40 in the future.

But for now, as junior lineman Matt Sanders notes, "there's a lot of underclassmen that have to step up and be leaders."

The Red Devils are not deep on juniors either, with just eight on the roster. More than half of those likely will be found in the lines, which are a bit unsettled. Sanders (6-4, 205), Gabe Walters (5-8, 248), John Nordin (5-10, 260) and Jeremy Penrose (5-11, 165) likely will be joined by a freshman -- either Brad Daugherty (5-10, 170) or Adam Urhahn (5-4, 155).

The receiving corps, which lost top threat James Reischman to graduation, will include Powderly (5-11, 150), who saw action last year, and junior Brad Urhahn (5-10, 135). Powderly also will play wingback.

But the Red Devils, who will run a Slot-I as their base package in a multiple set offense, get even younger in the backfield. Behind a sophomore quarterback, either freshmen Chris Hanback (5-11, 157) or Michael Armitage (6-0, 180) will line up at running back with freshman David Rhoda (5-8, 160) at fullback.

"That's very tough because they're going to be lining up against teams that are playing juniors and seniors, and they're looking for freshmen," Brashers said. "That's raw meat for them."

The offensive personnel also will play defense with a couple of exceptions. Hicks (6-2, 230) will return to the defensive line, and junior Daniel Lindy (5-11, 230) will help bolster the front.

Brashers has been preaching commitment to the program and so far has received mixed results.

"On a positive note, these kids give you all they got," Brashers said. "When they're here they give you a good 100 percent. They're very respectful, and that helps."

Brashers is just hoping to get this year's group through uninjured and build momentum for the future.

"When this season is over, no matter where the chips fall, I'm hoping we have a positive season, and we've all grown some and benefited from it, including me," he said.

jbreer@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 124

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