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Football preview: Chaffee returns abundance of experience at skill spots
CHAFFEE, Mo. -- Senior Mike Rutherford likes what he's seen from his quarterback so far.
"He's a lot better than he was last year," Rutherford said. "He's more accurate, throws harder. He worked his butt off in the offseason."
Junior quarterback Jordan Yahn hopes he got all the jitters out of his system last season so he consistently can lead Chaffee's offense to the end zone.
"I just got out every day with one of my friends and worked on my routes," Yahn said. "I feel like I've improved. I got my arm to where I need it to be and got my form back to where I'd like it to be."
Yahn will oversee an offense that returns eight players who saw significant time at skill positions. The Red Devils hope that experience translates to a more consistent offense. They only scored 12 touchdowns during last season's 1-8 campaign.
"That's where our strength is, at least in experience, is in our backfield and our receivers," Chaffee coach Charlie Vickery said. "Our line is pretty well depleted. I think we have some guys who can step in there, but they're untested. We're pretty green there. We're just going to try to play to our strengths."
Junior Trevor Cannon rushed for 108 yards last season and will be one of the main ball carriers this season. He said he isn't worried about the inexperienced offensive line.
"Not worried at all," Cannon said. "Coach will have them ready for us."
Chaffee will use Yahn's mobility to buy more time for the offensive line. He wasn't afraid to run last year, even finishing as the team's leading rusher with 377 yards on 91 carries.
"When you've got a mobile quarterback, it allows you to do some things," Vickery said. "We can move the pocket for one thing. We'll do some quick stuff. We'll just try to mix it up."
The Red Devils attempted 156 passes last season and that number should increase this season. Yahn even said the Red Devils "kind of have a spread offense."
"We're going to throw the ball," Vickery said. "We're probably going to be 50-50. If I had my druthers, I'd have that power running game. But you've got to do what you do best."
Rutherford served as Yahn's main target last season with 34 catches for 479 yards and three scores. He likely will get a significant number of looks again this season. But Chaffee also returns junior Zach Dannenmueller, who caught 12 passes for 91 yards.
"I kind of favor all my receivers now," Yahn said. "I'm starting to work out with all the others just as much as Mike now so I can get a feel for all of them this year so I have a better spread on my offense."
Vickery said one addition on defense should make a big difference. Linebacker Cody Enderle got hurt during the second game last season and missed the remainder of the year. He's back for his senior year.
"He was really the heart of the run defense," Vickery said. "Without him, we had a lot of young kids in there."
The Red Devils allowed 301 points and 3,100 yards last season, averages of 33.4 points and 344.4 yards per game.
"Our secondary should be pretty good," Vickery said. "We have a lot experience there. I think we've got probably eight guys who started at one time or another defensively. We gave up a lot of points. Everything started snowballing on us and we just could never get stops. That's over. That year is behind us."
Rutherford, who also plays safety, said the team's experience in the defensive backfield should help eliminate some of the big plays that victimized Chaffee last season.
"You know where to break on the ball and how much to shade them," he said. "Young defensive backs don't know their range yet. It's very important for our corners to know their range for sure. The safety, they know how far they need to be off the line. If you don't have any experience, you don't know what's coming and you're going to get burned every time."
Chaffee won its season opener before dropping its next nine games last season. The players are determined not to allow another losing streak like the one that plagued the program from 2002 to 2006.
"We just keep telling ourselves that we need to do better and just forget last year and block it out," Yahn said. "Make sure we have a better year this year."