CHATHAM, NJ - The main goal is pretty simple. The Chatham football team hopes to finish what it starts.
A year ago, the 2-8 Cougars held a lead in the second half eight times and lost six of those leads in the fourth quarter.
"We're going to finish those games," senior tri-captain Ryan McArthur said.
Dan Czepiga, in his second year as the head coach, seemed to be fighting a preparedness battle in his first season. The Cougars appeared to be running uphill in their quest to execute the plays put in by the new coach.
"I feel good," said Czepiga, whose team opens Saturday at Morris Hills. "We're definitely ahead of where we were last year as far as what is in playbook-wise both offensively and defensively. The kids are back and they know a little about the system. Now it's about executing the plays. It doesn't matter how much you have in if you're not executing them well."
After a prolonged battle in the preseason, junior Luke McAloon won the quarterback competition with senior Ryan Coughlin, who will start at safety and also fill in at running back. McAloon will benefit from a veteran offensive line and an accomplished running back in Peter Schelling, who rushed for 850 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.
"I'm pretty excited," Schelling said. "We've got four returning linemen and that's one of the most important parts of the team. My goal is to go over 1,000 yards rushing."
Schelling was pretty much kept under wraps during preseason scrimmages while Czepiga auditioned other runners to see what he had in terms of depth.
"We've kept Peter out for the majority of the scrimmages," Czepiga said. "It was beneficial across the board. Peter didn't have to take a lot of shots before the season and we got to see guys who can step up if something happens."
Schelling will run behind junior left tackle Will Duff, junior left guard Lucas Reasons, sophomore center Anthony Miller, senior right guard Connor Tully and senior tackle Ethan Bitar. Two sophomores, Stuart Garrett and Owen Walewander will share the tight end position.
McAloon's receivers include senior wideout Jack Powers, senior slot receiver Quinn Kelly, Walewander, Garrett, senior wide receiver Amari Bhalla and slot receiver Ryan McArthur.
The experienced defensive line features senior Jeremy Pollard and Peter Hughes as the ends with senior tackles Jorge Fuentes (6-4, 240) and Tamer Farid (5-8, 240).
McArthur will play the strongside linebacker position with junior Jack Kuppenheimer at middle linebacker, alongside either junior Jon Blanc or Walewander, who will share playing time.
The defensive backs are senior tri-captain Charles Cuneo, junior John O'Connell, senior Matt Snyder, and junior Sean McArthur. Seniors Liam High and Coughlin are the safeties.
The punter is junior Sam Smith and Kelly will do the placekicking.