Season Preview: Chaffee football team try to build on playoff berth

Thursday, August 25, 2011
Chaffee quarterback Jordan Yahn threw for 756 yards and five touchdowns last season. (Southeast Missourian file)

CHAFFEE, Mo. -- Jordan Yahn enters his third season as Chaffee's quarterback, but the senior knew he needed a new approach to the position.

"I just kind of loosened up and got calm," Yahn said. "It actually started working for me and I feel less pressured and less stress to deal with. It feels pretty good."

Yahn injured his ankle against Grandview in Week 1 and ended up splitting time with Cody Payne last season. Yahn finished 69 of 122 passing for 756 yards, five touchdowns and eight interceptions. But Payne decided against playing football this year, so Yahn is the man for the Red Devils.

"The main thing is not press," Chaffee coach Charlie Vickery said about Yahn. "I think when he presses himself, he tries to overcompensate. He's been a lot more relaxed. I think he's had a real good camp. I'm real pleased with him."

Yahn said the ankle injury shook his confidence last season, but he's ready to make the most of his senior season.

"After my ankle injury, I felt like I had to prove myself to get back in the game," he said. "That's just more stressful."

Senior Tyson Estes said Yahn's experience is a big plus for the Red Devils offense this season.

"It helps a lot in the huddle and the locker room," Estes said. "You always want to have a real good leader and an older guy under center at quarterback. The other guys know what to expect from him and we know how to pick up our game from him always going hard. It's good to have a three-year starter under center with Jordan."

The Red Devils passed for 1,300 yards and rushed for 1,108 yards last season. Vickery said he expects to feature a balanced offense again this season.

"I think we're capable of doing either," he said. "I've got good receivers and good backs, and our line is pretty experienced."

Estes returns as Chaffee's leading rusher. He ran for 641 yards on 153 carries last season.

"Estes, he had a good second half of the year after we went back to the I," Vickery said. "He did a good job."

Chaffee returns four starters on the offensive line, which Estes said will be the key to the Red Devils' rushing attack.

"I think we've got a lot more speed than we have in past years," he said. "Our offensive line is really experienced. Most of these guys have been up here since their sophomore [year], some of them their freshman year as starting linemen. ... We've got a lot of depth at a lot of positions, so we look real good offensively."

Chaffee's defense returns nine starters to a squad that created 31 turnovers last season. Linebacker Trevor Cannon said the defense's familiarity with coordinator Jerry Dement has helped the unit work to eliminate weaknesses in practice.

"We've been with coach Dement now for three years and we know what he expects out of us," Cannon said. "We know our drills and how to get better and how to get the best out of our drills. First couple years he was here, we didn't really know what drills was going on and we were kind of going through it real slow. Now we're going through it hard and crisp and get things done."

Yahn will help anchor the defensive line after seeing time at linebacker and in the secondary during his career.

"It's actually easier now that I've gotten the hang of it," he said. "And knowing what the line does as a quarterback helps me know what the offense is doing. It helps me read their offense a little better."

Three of Chaffee's four linebackers also will be back.

"We've got three seniors and a sophomore fill-in," Cannon said. "They're both learning real quick. Both [sophomores] are going to stick their nose in there. It's going to be a fight for them."

Chaffee is coming off its first playoff appearance since winning the Class 1 state title in 1983. The postseason berth bolstered the Red Devils' confidence entering this season.

"It's got people believing that we can still win," Cannon said. "A few years ago, you wouldn't have expected Chaffee to be in the playoffs. I think that with us going, people are believing that we can win."

The Red Devils also added another well-known name to their coaching staff. Vickery brought in Rich Payne as the defensive line coach. Payne led Central to a 10-2 record last season, which included a playoff victory. Payne joins another former Central coach, Dement, on the staff.

"If I was a young guy who just started out, I might be a little bit intimidated, but we've all done it for a long time," said Vickery, who coached at Sikeston before returning to Chaffee for the 2005 season. "We all know what we're doing and everybody gets along good."

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