Coach: Josh Goodin 7-14 (here and overall)
Returning starters (O/D/K): 7/7/2
Remember these names: Denzell Boyd (So., 5-8, 155) will play in the secondary and spearhead the Chargers’ running game at tailback, aided by fullbacks Dylan Lawson (Sr., 5-10, 175) and Wyatt Barnett (So., 6-0, 195), who also play linebacker. Lawson will be a starter for the third year and Barnett started every game as a freshman last season. Gage Johnson (So., 6-0, 170), primarily a special teams player last year, has grown some since last season and will back up Boyd at tailback and play weakside linebacker.
Will be a memorable year if: The Chargers quickly get a first win they never got last year and build on that for more victories. Goodin said he likes what he’s seen thus far from his team as far as fundamentals, work ethic and attitude. “I think there will be improvement,” he said. “If we could physically put ourselves against last year’s team, I think we’d be extremely far ahead of where were last year.”
Aug. 19 at McMinn County
Aug. 26 Notre Dame
Sept. 2 at Polk County*
Sept. 9 Loudon
Sept. 16 at Meigs County*
Sept. 23 at Bledsoe County
Sept. 30 Sequoyah*
Oct. 7 Kingston
Oct. 14 Sweetwater*
Oct. 21 at Stone Memorial
* District 5-AA game
Relative to a football player's size, Denzell Boyd is small. His contributions this season for McMinn Central are expected to be anything but small.
Coach Josh Goodin said Boyd had a good offseason, staying in condition playing basketball, running track and dedicating himself in the weight room. His 5-foot-8 frame is now packing about 155 pounds.
The Chargers are coming off an 0-10 season and are turning to Boyd to try to help reverse their fortunes. At tailback in their retooled offense, he's on track to get a lot more touches than he did a year ago as a freshman.
"He's worked his way into the position," Goodin said. "We need the ball in his hands, and we need him to be good when he's got it in his hands."
The news of having an increased role on offense this season is serving as motivation.
"That's really going to push me to give everything I've got," Boyd said. "I'm going to try and give them great things. Every snap I get, I know it matters to the whole team."
Boyd also has an import role in the Chargers' secondary. So much so, Goodin said that when Boyd needs a breather, it will likely come when they have the ball.
Fellow sophomore Gage Johnson will play outside linebacker and back up Boyd offensively. Boyd said having a 1,000-yard rushing season would be nice, but it's not his No. 1 objective.
"It's always in the back of your head," he said. "That's a personal goal, but really I don't care if I get it or another back gets it, as long as we're winning."
Boyd's promotion doesn't mean all the burden shifts to him. Goodin said there's plenty of accountability to go around, and ball carriers don't flourish by themselves.
"We've really got to have the offensive line to step up this year," Goodin said. "To say the least, we were absolutely terrible last year. We've got three new ones in there this year. All those guys have got to get on their blocks and stay on their blocks for Denzell to have a good year."
McMinn Central was 7-4 and a state-playoff team in 2009 -- Goodin's first year as head coach.
"I think if we play like we're capable of playing, we can have a winning season," Boyd said. "The seniors are pushing us. Each and every person really wants a winning season this year."
On Oct. 26, 2007, the Chargers looked headed for a loss at Polk County but pulled out a 42-41 victory that had more bizarre twists and turns down the stretch than a Stephen King novel.
After failed attempts at a two-point conversion and an onside kick, McMinn Central looked doomed to a 28-27 loss with a little more than two minutes remaining. And then three plays after taking possession, Polk scored on a touchdown run and added the extra point.
It didn’t seem so at the time, but that proved to be the best thing that could’ve happened for the Chargers. With a little less than a minute remaining and with one timeout, they took over near midfield after a shanked kickoff.
A Jordan Jackson-to-Barrett Barnett pass with no time remaining made it 35-33. A conversion hook-up between them sent the game to overtime.
McMinn Central scored a TD on the first possession and Will Watkins kicked the extra point. Polk County matched the touchdown, but its conversion run for a win was stopped at the 1.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.