While they lost a strong senior class that laid the foundation for the transition of the program to AA, the Eagles again seem positioned to make a playoff run and possibly work themselves in the top three of the conference. A lot depends how smoothly they adapted to Michael Carter’s new system and, as the smallest school playing high school football, how CCS goes through the season with a minimum of injuries.
The Eagles have 22 players on the roster, an all-time high.
Tanner Stevenson has taken over at quarterback and had a strong spring and 7-on-7 season. "He’s smart but he’s picking up the offense real well," said Carter. "He and Chandler Ferrand were in a battle during the spring but Tanner has picked up things a little quicker and moved ahead. One of the keys to the new offense will be junior receiver Andrew Dather (6-foot-2, 160). "I can’t even explain what kind of athlete he is," Carter said. "He does things that you just say ‘Wow, how did he do that?’ I’ve coached a lot of good receives and he’s the best receiver I’ve ever coached."
The strength of the offense is expected to be up front. "We have a big team in the line for our class," Carter said. "But our kids are not only big but pretty good."
The leader will be Will DenHartog (6-2, 280), a three-year starter, but supported by junior Pierson Castle (6-1, 205), seniors Will Sanderlin (6-4, 220), Corey Harris (6-1, 210) and junior Matt Austin (5-10, 225). "DenHartog could be very good if that light bulb stays on and doesn’t go off," Carter said. "He has good feet and is a strong kid and smart."
The Eagles should be stronger up front with sophomore Caleb Dather, DenHartog, Austin and Sanderlin. Bickford, who will play also at tight end and running back, has had a good preseason at linebacker while Jacob Callaway, the fastest player on the team and expected to also play receiver, is expected to lead the defensive backfield along with Ferrand, who intercepted five passes last season.
Dather handles placekicks, punts and also will be a primary return specialist.
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
CCS has a complete new offense and defense with a backfield that has been totally replaced. How the Eagles improve on defense will also be a key. As usual, Conway Christian must stay healthy.