LINDEN — North Montgomery welcomes back plenty of depth in the two areas it takes to have a successful football team.
Skill players and defense.
With the exception of their leading rusher in Bryce Claycomb and leading tackler in Daniel Fritzen, almost everyone else is back from a Charger team that went 4-7 last fall, and was playing their best football in the latter part of the season.
The Chargers return a number of starters at each position. Probably no one more important than senior Jaron Bradford, who steps into his second season at quarterback.
“We have a lot of skill positions returning,” North coach Josh Thompson said. “And we have great leadership returning on both the offensive and defensive lines.”
Seniors Drew Webster, Jack Thompson, and Moose Miller all return up front, while Kiefer Carmean returns at tightend.
Ben Lovold is back for his senior season as his Kai Warren, who will anchor the defensive backfield and be a threat on offense. Zach Waldon returns as the back-up quarterback, and will see time at running back. Jacob Braun also returns for his junior year.
The most noticeable returners are senior Kade Kobel and junior Zak Searle. Kobel is the top threat on offense, and a key to the Charger’s defense. Searle will look to help fill the void left by Claycomb on offense, and by Fritzen on defense.
Big Up Front
Not only do the Chargers return experience up front, but also the size to go along with it. Webster is 6’4” and 235 pounds, while Thompson is 6’5” — 240. Moose Miller is 6’5” and 290 pounds.
“I think our defensive line is very experienced,” Thompson said. “We have some size up there. Size and experience is always good and that’s going to help with our linebackers.”
Webster, Thompson, and Miller will all start on the offensive line along with Nick Ebaugh, and Benjamin Pietsch. Carmean, Nick Rice, and Braun will join Webster on the defensive line with the others rotating in.
Thompson feels like his veteran-based team is much further along heading into this season than it was last year.
“I think our kids were further along over the summer in learning their assignments than we were last year,” he said. “So I feel like we know what we are doing better, and now it’s just a matter of performing consistently in a game.”
After a first-look at the Chargers in their scrimmage against McCutcheon last Friday, Thompson is happy with what he saw, but knows there is always a lot to work on.
“We got off to a very good start,” he said. “There are still some inconsistencies, but overall without watching film I’m overall pleased with how it turned out. I’m really pleased with all the kids we’ve got right now. I think we’ve had a very productive summer, and a very productive two weeks to start the season of practice.”
North Montgomery was plagued with a bit of an injury big over the summer, and questions still remain around a few players. Searle was sidelined at times throughout the summer with a back injury, but did participate on a limited-basis during the scrimmage against the Mavericks. Kobel has been battling a lower-body injury since track and field season. The senior was in street clothes during the scrimmage, but is practicing this week, and hopes to play on Friday.
No matter who steps on the field, Thompson is happy with how the guys are responding.
“I think the guys that we had on the field did really well,” he said after the scrimmage. “And we are going to continue to coach those guys up. And we are going to play with the guys that are out there and are available and it’s that next man up mentality.”
In addition to the returning letterman, Thompson also expects to see Alex Wallace, Kolton Scrimmage, Pietsch, and Max Verduin in varsity roles this season.
The Chargers open the season at home against North Putnam on Friday, a team they lost to last season. They will start the hunt for their first county title since 2015 at home against Southmont on Sep. 6, and are in search of their first Sagamore Conference title since 2008.