In its first year last season, Chillicothe took the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League by storm becoming a surprise winner of the SEOAL South division and runner-up to Logan in the overall SEOAL standings. The Cavaliers also made their first playoff appearance since 1999. This year, Chillicothe is looking for similar results.
Chillicothe High School left the ever-growing Ohio Capital Conference following the 2005 season in hopes that the shrinking school district could better compete once they left behind Division I schools like Upper Arlington, Grove City and the Dublin schools.
Boy did that plan ever work out. CHS took the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League by storm last school year becoming a surprise winner of the SEOAL South division and runner-up to Logan in the overall SEOAL standings. The Cavaliers also made their first playoff appearance since 1999.
The 2007 football team returns a perfect combination of talent and experience to reach the playoffs again and to be among the top contenders in the SEOAL. Graduated stars Chris Givens and Clay Beeler leave big holes to fill, however transfers from Vinton County and Paint Valley have made the transition easier. Givens, now at Miami University and the recent MVP of the OHSFCA North/South game, was a standout on offense (Wide Receiver), defense (Cornerback), and special teams (Punter, kick returner) while Beeler, now at NCAA Div. II West Liberty State, was the Cavs defensive MVP and leading tackler at linebacker. He was also the team’s leading rusher from his fullback post.
Junior quarterback Caleb Knights (6-0, 175), who took over the starting QB role halfway through his freshman season, returns after a dynamite 2006 season that saw him complete a whopping 72-percent of his passes for nearly 2,200 yards with 20 touchdowns. He tossed only eight interceptions. Gone, however, are the junior’s top five receivers. Looking to step into two of those positions are junior Jordan Benson (6-2, 190) and sophomore Shay Netter (6-3, 180). Benson started at free safety last season and Netter played on special teams as freshman. Tight End Nathan Woodworth (6-3, 180) is the only other returning skills player and caught six passes for 90 yards and a touchdown.
Beeler will be replaced by a list of candidates topped by Vinton County transfer Zach Ray (6-1, 220).
Most important to the Cavs success may be the return of four starting offensive linemen headlined by senior tackles Mike Newman (6-3, 250) and co-captain Nate Freeman (6-0, 275). Senior Ansel Benson (6-1, 275) and junior Tyler Dunkle (6-3, 230) both return at guard. Junior Danny Russell (5-10, 210) and senior transfers John Anderson (Vinton County) and Curt Smith (Paint Valley) will all compete for time on the offensive line as well.
Defensively, the Cavaliers must replace four of their top five tacklers, but like on offense the strength of the unit lies in the front line. With a host of returning linemen and the loss of the team’s top 4 linebackers, the Cavs are making the transition to a 50-base defense from the 4-4 they ran a year ago.
Senior nose tackle and team co-captain Corbin Tanner (6-3, 230) really came alive after moving to the interior line from defensive end and recorded 56 total tackles, six of those for loss last fall. Woodworth returns at defensive rush end where he recorded 52 total tackles and a team high four sacks. Smith, Anderson, Russell, junior Tyler Vest (6-4, 275), and junior Jacques Wong (6-0, 260) will also all see time. Junior Ron Smith (6-1, 180) will make the move from outside linebacker to end to round out the Cavs front five.
At linebacker, Ray and junior David Dere (5-11, 230) will look to fill the void left by Beeler and Kent Johnson – the Cavaliers top two tackles from a year ago. Dere missed last season due to academics but has the ability to be a strong contender for All-SEOAL honors.
The defensive backfield will miss the talents of Givens and Isaac Steele, but CHS will look to junior Alex Grow (5-10, 150) and senior Dom Whitehurst (5-10, 150) or junior Kevin Scott (5-7, 145) to fill the corner spots. Benson returns at free safety after a fine sophomore season where he recorded 81 tackles and two interceptions. Netter will play the “Hero” or Strong Safety position for the Cavaliers and is noted for his aggressive hard hitting.
The Cavaliers should boast a potent passing attack that will likely cause headaches once again for opponents. A non-league schedule that includes home games with Brookhaven and Big Walnut and a trip to Logan (in a quirk of the schedule, the LHS/CHS game is not counted in the league standings) will force the young Cavalier receivers and defense to grow up quickly. League trips to Gallipolis, Ironton, and Zanesville will be the biggest challenges in league play. Marietta and Jackson, the Cavs only two SEOAL losses in 2006, will travel to Hernnstein Field where the Cavs hope to extract revenge.