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SHEPHERDSVILLE - The Bullitt East football program, like most others, has had its ups and downs over the years.
The one big difference is that the Chargers rarely stay down very long.
Following a pair of disappointing seasons that saw the team lose the last three games in each campaign as well as a first-round play-off game in 2011, the red and gold are looking to make some big steps forward this fall.
The numbers on the field are strong as second-year head coach Darrell Vincent has 80 players on the roster. The coach plans to dress up to 60 of those kids on Friday night.
Even better news after the last two seasons is that the team is healthy at this point. Injuries have hampered the team during the recent woes, but Vincent said that as of Thursday of last week that there was nothing more than a deep thigh bruise on the injury front.
"Right now we're pretty healthy," the coach said. "One stiff back. We're in pretty good shape. We addressed some things in the weight room to work on some of the shoulder injuries we've been having.
"We've been hitting, but the coaches are a little quicker on the whistle," Vincent said of the practice routine. "We still want them to wrap up. We don't want them ten in a pile. We work on techniques."
Last year did provide a number of changes within the program as the Chargers returned to the split-back veer from season's past after using a version of the wishbone for three seasons under then head coach Doug Preston. Now, the players have been in the old style of play for an entire season.
"We've got a few new wrinkles and are doing a few new things on defense," Vincent pointed out. "Some is technique and some are wrinkles. We're being more aggressive with the defensive line."
The positive from playing so many young players last season is that those sophomores are now juniors with experience.
"The big change is where we had injuries last we played sophomores," the coach explained. "Now, they are juniors and they have a better understanding of what we want. We're at a better spot now than last year.
"Playing through adversity is good," Vincent added. "We're anxious to get out on the field and see how that carries over."
A year ago, Anthony Doran, now a senior, was a starting linebacker for the Chargers. By the end of the season, through injuries and ineffectiveness by others, Doran was the starting quarterback. Now, he has the job from day one.
"He started the Nelson County game for us last year," Vincent noted. "He is a presence in the huddle. He is really on top of his game.
"He played linebacker for us last year so he is aggressive," the coach added. "We expect a lot out of him."
The back-up to Doran will be sophomore Alex Elkins.
The split back veer needs strong running backs and last year the team went through a number of runners due to injuries. This year, Vincent clicked off the name of six backs that could get the ball this season.
Leading that group is senior Jesse Porter.
"We changed so much going into last year," Vincent said of what the running backs did. "You can see in practice that he sees things better now.
Joining Porter in the starting backfield will be junior Brandon Samuels. The deep running group also includes senior Blake McGill, junior Garrett Tingle along with junior Kevin Carter. Sophomore Robert Hartley will also get some carries.
On a lot of teams, position players are called on to be kickers. This season for Bullitt East, senior Devyn Noe, who will still do all the kicking for the Chargers, has moved into a position on the field as he will be the starting wide receiver.
"He's a great kicker, but he is not just a kicker," Vincent pointed out. "He's a pretty good receiver. He was strong in our 7-on-7 this summer.
Carter, who is 6-3, will also see time at the one wide-out position. He transferred to Bullitt East after playing at Pleasure Ridge Park last season. Paul Miles, a junior, will see playing time as a receiver.
The split-back veer requires a pair of tight ends and at this point the team plans on rotating three players into those spots. That group includes senior Austin Story, sophomore Trent Meredith and junior Cruise Coulter. The positions could also be manned by sophomore Nick Cooper or junior Seth Thompson.
On the front line, Vincent said the team is working toward having separate starting groups for both the offensive and defensive lines, although, a number of players will see action on both sides of the ball.
There is good size on the outside as senior Andrew Okruch and junior Dylan Ferguson will be the tackles. Ferguson goes 280-pounds while Okruch, the state runner-up in the discus last spring, is a powerful 260.
Another top lineman will be senior guard Gage Logsdon. He was having a strong season last year before suffering a knee injury in the game at Central Hardin and missing the remainder of the season.
On the other side of the center, the guard will be junior Jake Rush. Inside, the Chargers return junior Evan Kerr as the starting center.
Most of the offensive linemen can play multiple positions. Behind Kerr, junior A.J. Romine or Okruch can play center. The back-up guards will be juniors T.J. Rayhill and Trey Hurley. Outside, there are a number of tackle candidates in seniors Tyler Potter, Kirkland Alcorn and Jacob Carter along with junior Shane Childers and sophomore Austin Roush.
While many of the names are the same on both offense and defense, as is the case with most high school football teams, Vincent is hoping to give everyone a break from being on the field. The biggest exception will be Logsdon who will also be the starting inside linebacker.
Up front, the two tackles in the four-man front will include Hurley who is back as a starter. The other position will be rotated between Roush, Okruch and Ferguson. Alcorn and Jacob Carter could also see time at tackle.
On the outside, the defensive ends will come from a rotation that will include senior Austin Story as well as senior Blake McGill, junior Ted Hightower as well as Samuels.
Logsdon is the anchor in the middle of the linebacker group and he will be flanked by Porter and Kerr. Also seeing action at linebacker will be junior Garrett Tingle, sophomores Nick Cooper and Shane Satori as well as senior Shane Clark and Samuels.
Noe is another player who will get some double duty action as he will be a cornerback in a rotation that will include Kevin Carter, juniors Paul Miles and Trevor Payton. Porter could also see action at cornerback.
In the secondary, Kevin Carter could also play at safety as he is part of a two-man rotation that will also include sophomores Robert Hartley, Trent Meredith and Austin Jewell.
At this point, Vincent does not want Doran returning to his defensive roots.
"He might play there in a few special situations, but we want him to focus on offense," the coach said.
Most of the heavy lifting for the Chargers will be handled by 22 to 25 players.
"We have some sophomores who can play," Vincent said. "We have other guys who can help. We think we'll be close to separate offensive and defensive lines. Logsdon will go both ways, but we won't have as many doing that as last year."
All of the kicking jobs will be handled by Noe.
The Chargers will open the season on Friday when they play host to Doss, a team that they defeated 9-6 in overtime last season on Noe's field goal.