BY GEORGE BREMER
Charlestown’s motto this summer has been a simple one.
“New year, new team, same expectations,” reigning Mid-Southern Conference and News and Tribune Coach of the Year Jason Hawkins said of his 2013 squad. “A lot of people know we have a lot of last year’s team gone. But our goal is to get back to the same place this year.”
That may seem far-fetched coming off of a record-breaking season, in which the Pirates went 12-1 and won their first sectional title since 1996. However, Charlestown’s 2013 summer really hasn’t been much different than its past six under Hawkins, including four conference crowns and last season’s sectional championship.
“It’s been OK,” Hawkins said of the summer. “We’ve gotten better throughout the summer. We’ve gotten to the point where we should be one of the better teams in the area.”
Hawkins said the Charlestown program has reached the point where the summers have lacked some enthusiasm, which can be good or bad.
“I could call us more of a businesslike team,” he explained. “Our kids don’t really get fired up like you would sometimes like to see. But when the lights turn on [on Friday nights], they come ready to play.”
Hawkins said he’s had nearly 100 percent attendance, except for pre-scheduled vacations and absences that come with summer, from 65-75 players. That number is about the same as the past three or four years.
He also has continued to see a trend at Charlestown of more players becoming interested in playing football for the first time.
“We have a lot of newcomers this year,” he said. “We’ve added some athletes from throughout the school, kids who haven’t played before.”
With much of its record-setting defense back from last year’s team, Hawkins has little concern over stopping opposing offenses this season. The Pirates’ emphasis has been on an offense that lost most of its 60 points per game from a year ago.
“We’ve had to change some things a couple of times, but I think we’re getting to the point we should be on the offensive side, in particular,” Hawkins said. “It’s going to be a work in progress.”
Three players have been vying to replace All-State quarterback Aaron Daniel, who accounted for 3,841 yards and 68 touchdowns and set 18 school records as a senior before moving on to Indiana University. Senior Darren Taylor — an All-Area linebacker as a junior — junior Tristan Chester and freshman Antonyo Gaddie have been competing for the spot and Hawkins said all three have made strides.
“We’ve thrown a lot at them,” he said.
Charlestown scrimmaged Jeffersonville (twice), New Albany and Seymour over the summer. Hawkins likes the idea of taking on teams like Jeff and New Albany, which both expect to finish near the top of the Hoosier Hills Conference.
“We’re going to scrimmage the best teams we can in the summer,” he said. “It helps prepare us for conference. When we play teams bigger than us, it gets us ready for the season. We looked good [against Jeff and New Albany]. We looked really good against Seymour.”
2013 CHARLESTOWN PIRATES
• DEPARTURES: Aaron Daniel (QB/DB), Wesley Sexton (WR), Cody Donahue (WR), Gage Brafford (WR/DB), Alec Wakefield (OL), Leighton Brewer (OL), Stephen Johnson (OL), Cole Nokes (OL/DL), Zach Knight (OL), Zack Green (DB), Desmond Wiley (DL, moved to Chicago).
• KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Matt Myers (LB/FB, Sr.), Jake Harper (LB, Sr.), Jimmy Garcia (Sr., DL/FB), Darren Taylor (Sr., OLB), Eli Daniel (Jr., S), Jason Houchens (Jr., DB), Adam Hoff (Sr., OL), Gavin Hebner (Sr., OL), Drexler Meadors (Sr., OL).
• KEY NEWCOMERS: Tate Boley (So., S), Cameron Hopson (Jr., WB), Syd Gieseking (So., RB), Antonyo Gaddie (Fr., RB/QB), Esdres Hernandez (Jr., OLB), Eric Miller (Jr., DL/OLB), Quinten Fetz (So., DL), Cody Johnson (Jr., DL), Alex Smith (Sr., WR/DB).
• 2012 RECAP: It couldn’t have gone better for Charlestown for the first 12 1/2 games. The Pirates set every offensive record imaginable behind quarterback Aaron Daniel and led the state in scoring, while the defense crushed everything in its path. That is, until the second half of the Class 3A regional when Gibson Southern ripped off 43 unanswered points for a stunning 57-49 win. Still, Charlestown won its fourth Mid-Southern Conference title in six years and its first sectional crown since 1996. Even the regional collapse can’t take the shine off of a stellar 2012 in Charlestown.
• 2013 EXPECTATIONS: Well, there’s little doubt that Charlestown’s going to have another great season. It’s just a matter of how great. If the offense holds its own, the Pirates should compete with Brownstown Central and Corydon Central in the Mid-Southern Conference and for their second straight sectional crown. If the offense shines, in concert with what should be a strong defense, it’s hard telling what Charlestown can accomplish in 2013.