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Senior-loaded Chargers open Friday at Mathews

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The 2009 Middlesex High School Chargers varsity football team is loaded with seniors. Above, the senior players include, front from left, Dale Smith, Matt Duke, Sean Sutherlin, Craig Conley, Corey Keeling, Jeremy Webb and Jake Pender; and standing, Willie Holmes, Ryan Burton, Scott Payne, Tayvon Morning, Markus Hammond, Bryan Engle and Brandon Eanes. Payne, Engle, Duke and Eanes were all second team All-District in 2008. The Chargers open their season at 7 p.m. this Friday, September 4, at Mathews. (Photo by Larry Chowning)
by Larry S. Chowning

For the past few years, a word associated with the Middlesex High School football team is “inexperience.” This year is different. The Chargers have 14 seniors returning.

Fourth-year head coach Heath Cockerham said the Chargers have had several real good scrimmages and “we are certainly in a whole lot better shape than we have been in years past.”

The Chargers open up the gridiron season this Friday, September 4, at 7 p.m. on the road against arch-rival and Tidewater District foe Mathews.

“This is my fourth year, so these 14 seniors are the kids I started with when I first came here,” said Cockerham. 

“We have been hampered by injuries all three years but this year we are 100 percent healthy and strong,” said Cockerham. “We took a lot of lumps last year because of injuries.  It was a learning curve for a lot of the younger kids who we had to bring up from junior varsity.

“Even though we had a tough season, we gained a lot of experience and it should pay off for us this season,” he said.  “We have 31 kids on the varsity and 40 on junior varsity. This will be one of the first years I’ve been here that 10th-graders will be able to play junior varsity.”

When juniors and seniors were injured in the past, Cockerham has been forced to pull up freshman and sophomores from the JVs to play varsity.

“The strength of our team is going to come from our experienced offensive and defensive lines,” he said. “Linemen Scott Payne, Corey Keeling, Ryan Burton and Brandon Eanes have been playing together since their freshman year. I’m at a point that these kids know my system as well as I do, and they go out and do it.

“This is the strongest group of kids anywhere that I’ve coached,” said Cockerham. “If we can stay healthy, we are hoping for a good season.”

The senior linemen are Payne, a 6’1”, 225-pound, lineman; Keeling, a 5’11”, 215-pound lineman; Burton, a 6’2”, 215-pound lineman; and Eanes, a 6’2”, 260-pound lineman.

Other seniors are Dale Smith, flanker, 5’8”, 165 pounds; Matt Duke, split-end/defensive back, 6’1”, 160 pounds; Sean Sutherlin, split end, 5’10”, 160 pounds; Craig Conley, flanker /defensive back, 5’9”, 190 pounds; Jeremy Webb, wingback, 5’6”, 140 pounds; and Jake Pender, tight-end/defensive back, 5’8”, 170 pounds.

Other seniors include Willie Holmes, wingback/linebacker, 5’11”, 180 pounds; Tayvon Mourning, lineman, 6’6”, 300 pounds; Markus Hammond, split end, 6’0”, 200 pounds; and Bryan Engle, lineman, 6’2”, 333 pounds.

Juniors include Kris Baylor, quarterback; Davon Bryant, split end; Jay Bryant, lineman; Avery Bundy, flanker; Chris Chamberlain, wingback; David Ryan, wingback/safety; Malcolm Holmes, wingback; Donovan Jones, tight end; Mike Kiku, split end; Chuckie Morris, quarterback; Dylan Perry, lineman; Jeremy Rich, wingback; and Jasper Smith, split end.

Malik Henderson and Stone Shores are the only sophomores on the varsity, and Raheem Lockley is the only freshman.

The varsity assistant coaches this year are Aaron Gray, Lee Anderson, Austin Moon and Benny Burrell..

posted 09.02.2009

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