Cabarrus

Chargers look to keep improving in third season

Finishing tied for third place in the South Piedmont Conference in its second year as a program, Cox Mill showed it could compete.

Coach Greg Neuendorf said his team's experience and mental approach allowed his team to finish with a 6-6 record (4-3 in conference play).

"Hopefully that and the confidence from winning football games comes through from last year," he said.

Neuendorf said the Chargers will be forced to adjust after losing its first senior class, which could prove to be a challenge.

The departures of all-conference running back Jahquille Hankerson and all-conference linebacker Donovan Moss are big blows for the team, but Cox Mill returns enough talent to have another good season.

Three-year starting quarterback Arrick Hincher will lead the offense after throwing for more than 1,100 yards and seven touchdowns last fall.

"Arrick's one of the hardest workers I've ever coached," said Neuendorf. "He's a smart kid who does exactly what you want him to do. ... Now as a senior, you're hoping he makes those plays that make a difference at the end of a game."

Neuendorf said Hincher, who can also be a running threat, has improved his footwork and accuracy in the offseason.

The 6-foot-2 senior will throw the ball to an experienced and athletic group of receivers, starting with senior Parker Kenney.

Kenney, who led the team with 450 receiving yards and two touchdowns, should also have help from senior Evan Mojtabai and junior Ryan Hill.

"We're as athletic as anyone in the county," said Neuendorf about the Chargers' talent at the position.

Neuendorf wants his team to throw the ball more this year instead of putting so much focus on the run game.

Without Hankerson, Neuendorf is still looking for a replacement at tailback. Senior Avery Vantull is the only returning running back who saw any action at the varsity level.

"Scrimmages will be the biggest test of who'll be able to fill in that position," said Neuendorf. "We're still moving parts."

The Chargers also have an experienced offensive line, returning four of its five starters from last season. Senior Matt Tucker, who was an all-conference selection last season, will show the way up front.

Defensively, the Chargers will have to replace most of its front seven. A big boost is the return of senior Tristian Green, who led Cox Mill with 16.5 sacks last year.

"He's a great athlete, probably pound-by-pound the strongest kid on the team, he understands how to use his hands," said Neuendorf. "He's a kid who's just quicker than a lot of guards and tackles he lines up against."

Senior Chris Blakeney, an 6-foot-2, 327-pound all-conference guard, will move to defensive tackle to lead the line.

Kenney should also help defensively at free safety, a position from where he led the team with three interceptions and recorded 18 tackles. Junior defensive back Diron Chloe is the top returning tackler after having 36 last year.

Neuendorf said this year's team has the best chemistry in program history, as most of its 25-man senior class has grown close in the past three years.

"They really like each other, which really goes a long way on the field," he said. "They like practicing against each other, encouraging each other."

That experience and football knowledge has also allowed the Chargers to increase the pace at practice, where the coaching staff can implement more complex concepts.

"Hopefully we can play a step faster because we're mentally not having to think and move at the same time," said Neuendorf.

Although the team wants to compete for a conference title and host a playoff game, Neuendorf hopes his team gels and continues to improve.

"I don't know if our five best players will be as good as last year's best players, but I know our sixth player to our 22nd guy will be better than last year," said Neuendorf. "Hopefully that'll show on the field."

Related stories from Charlotte Observer

  Comments