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After last season, Chariho football coach Mike Kelly isnâ€™t taking any chances when it comes to resting players.
Last fall the Chargers â€“ by no fault of their coach â€“ were decimated by injuries so at this point in the season Kelly is making sure his team gets the rest they need to be ready for the season.
â€śWeâ€™re making some progress,â€ť Kelly says. â€śThe biggest battle weâ€™re going through is we have some bumps and bruises. Weâ€™re trying to be smart.â€ť
Itâ€™s been a double-edged sword for Kelly and the Chargers though.
Resting players who are a little dinged up in the preseason is obviously the right move but for a team as young as Chariho the players could certainly use the repetitions.
â€śI returned my right guard and my right tackle and thatâ€™s pretty much it on offense,â€ť Kelly says. â€śWe were young in spots last year but we had a lot of first-year seniors that helped plug some of the gaps.â€ť
Junior James Costigan and senior Dylan Gencarella are the two aforementioned returners to the offensive line, while rest of the offense will be filled by players light on varsity experience.
At running back juniors Sal Desantis and Jake Whan saw time at fullback and as a kick returner, respectively, last fall but this time around will be the primary ball carriers along with junior Blake James.
â€śSal was a little nicked up,â€ť Kelly says. â€śAs long as heâ€™s healthy heâ€™s going to see the football. Salâ€™s a big, very physical back. Jake Whanâ€™s a real solid football player with speed and more size [than people give him credit for].â€ť
Replacing Hayden Prior at quarterback will be junior Jake Rousseau, who will be making the transition from playing junior varsity to varsity.
â€śHe was our JV quarterback and at least at this point this year heâ€™s shown the biggest improvement,â€ť Kelly says. â€śâ€¦So far heâ€™s really hung in there and he understands what weâ€™re trying to get done.â€ť
Two of Rousseauâ€™s top targets to watch this season are both coming off injuries as junior tight end Shane Stewart and junior wide receiver Tyler Bobbin could each play prominent roles in the passing game.
â€śAs a receiver Tyler Bobbin is the guy to watch,â€ť Kelly says. â€śHe showed flashes last year. He showed some flashes for us this year and heâ€™s healthy.â€ť
Defensively the Chargers should be in better shape as long as they can stay healthy as far more return on that side of the ball compared to the offense.
The secondary should be a strength for Chariho with Caleb McQuaide and James, while Matt Gooding and Dan Urena anchor a solid defensive line.
Stewart has the inside track to start at linebacker and from there the Chargers are still looking to fill in the pieces around him.
Whan will once again be the primary kick returner â€“ along with James â€“ and as he proved last season against Westerly, he has big play potential when he gets the ball in space.
As far as the schedule for Chariho goes expect plenty of home cooking as five of its seven league games will be at home.
The Chargers kick off the regular season by hosting Coventry Friday, Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. and will play four home games â€“ three league, one non-league against Portsmouth â€“ before travelling for the first time Saturday, Oct. 26 for a 1:30 p.m. start at Johnston.
Chariho will end the regular season by returning home to host Woonsocket, travelling to Warwick to play Toll Gate and finishing on Thanksgiving Day Thursday, Nov. 28 at 10 a.m. at Exeter-West Greenwich.
The Chargers will kick off the Injury Fund potion of their preseason schedule Saturday at 5 p.m. when they play Division III East Greenwich at Curtis Corner Middle School in South Kingstown.