Chapin coach Justin Gentry is facing a youth movement as the Eagles move into a new region.
When Chapin plays host to Batesburg-Leesville on Friday night in its season-opener, the Eagles will have one returning starter on defense and likely will start three or four sophomores on that side of the ball.
“We played in a jamboree a week ago, and we looked out on the field and we had seven 10th graders on the field at once,” Gentry said. “We’re young, but I think there is some talent. We just need to work on the little things like tackling and taking the correct angles. Our goal is to be competitive and hope when everything is said and done, we can make some noise come playoff time.”
Senior cornerback Chase McCathern is the only returning starter. But Gentry does have some players who received ample playing time last year. Linebacker Greer Layne and safety Carter White were counted on heavily and will fill starting roles this season.
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But outside of those three, the Eagles have little experience defensively.
“I guess that is the downside to being senior-heavy last year,” Gentry said. “... We need to grow up quick.”
That means the offense might have to carry the load early.
Quarterback Matt Charpia and receiver Barrett Charpia form a formidable pass catching tandem. Offensive lineman Will Hornsby is the most experienced player in the trenches as the Eagles try to replace Mason Zandi, who is playing at USC this year.
Senior running backs Robbie Lopez and Jacob Eddington form a solid 1-2 punch. They were the two leading rushers last season and will be the focal point of the offense, especially in the early going.
“We’re going to hang our hats on those two running backs,” Gentry said. “We’re going to run the pistol and give those two plenty of carries. We feel like that is our best option, but we feel confident when Matt has to throw the ball.”
After finishing 4-6 and missing the playoffs playing in a region with teams such as Greer, Blue Ridge, Clinton, Union and Chapman, Chapin moves back into Region 4-3A and more natural rivals. After opening with Batesburg-Leesville, the Eagles will face a tough non-region schedule with Swansea, Brookland-Cayce, Newberry and Mid-Carolina.
Chapin will travel to newly opened Westwood to open region play with A.C. Flora, Lower Richland, Dreher and Camden rounding out the schedule.
“I guess there is a plus and minus into moving into a new region,” Gentry said. “The plus is we don’t have to travel as far. The minus is we moved into a region with teams that are very senior-laden. It’s as good and competitive a region as we have faced.”