Cole Valley Melba FOOTBALL03.JPG

Cole Valley quarterback Carter Fortin (3) attempts to evade Melba defenders during a game on Sept. 25, 2020.

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A large pool of players, a lot of returning starters and Super Bowl-winning offensive coordinator are just some of the reasons Cole Valley Christian football coach Mark Moreno has to be excited for the 2021 season.

Having such a young roster might extend that excitement for the future, but the Chargers coach isn’t thinking that far ahead just yet.

Close to 50 players are slated to come out for the Chargers this season, including seven returning starters on each side of the ball. But even though less than 10 players on the roster are seniors, Moreno said Cole Valley is focused on winning now.

“As far as this year, there’s really no excuse,” said Moreno. “A lot of these young guys had experience last year, so it’s not like it’s going to be their first time getting after it on the varsity level. A lot of these guys got time as freshmen, so really, we expect to hit the ground running. … We’re really expecting some good things. We’re definitely several steps forward compared to that of last year.”

After a 3-4 season, which saw the Chargers lose four of their last five, Moreno brought in a new offensive coordinator who is a first-time coach, but he has plenty of name recognition in the Treasure Valley. Shea McClellin, a former Marsing High and Boise State standout who was a first round draft pick in 2012, will run the offense.

McClellin, who was on the New England Patriots’ roster when they won Super Bowl LI, will have plenty of talent to work with in his first coaching job. Senior quarterback Carter Fortin is back for his third season starting for the Chargers after earning first-team All-Western Idaho Conference honors a year ago.

Moreno said Fortin has always been a workhorse in the weight room and that played a factor in him being able to get back on the field after missing a couple of weeks to a knee injury last season.

“He puts in work in the weight room, he’s our hardest worker, or at least one of them,” Moreno said. “Even his doctor and physical therapist said if he wasn’t in the weight room, it would have been blown.”

Fortin will have some targets to throw to as well, as first-team all-conference wide receiver David Howlett returns, as does sophomore Ben Beglinger, who played quarterback while Fortin was out last season.

McClellin likes to get tight ends involved in the offense, Moreno said, so as a result he expects that position to play a bigger role in the passing game. The Chargers are looking to shift junior Sam Sherman, a second-team all-WIC offensive lineman a season ago, over to that position.

That, however, will be reliant on the Chargers finding enough players to fill the offensive line. While the Chargers have the numbers at that position, they don’t have a single senior in the group.

“If we can find five guys we’re happy with, we’ll let Sam play tight end,” Moreno said. “But I told him straight up ‘the O-Line is the most important piece of the offense, so you’re going to be there if we don’t feel comfortable.’”

Sherman will also be making a shift on defense, where he was a second-team all-conference selection on the defensive line. He will move to the Mike linebacker position, where he will team up with Fortin, Jaden Walter and Levi Traxler, a transfer from Juneau, Alaska. That group will form what Moreno — who has coached at Cole Valley since 2014 — says is the best linebacking group the Chargers have had in his time there.

In the defensive backfield, Howlett, Beglinger and Lincoln Gee, an all-conference honorable mention, will make up three of the four spots. Their experience, Moreno hopes, will lead to an improved backfield this season.

“We need to solidify the other corner spot, we got a couple of juniors vying for that spot,” Moreno said. “Our defensive backfield was honestly a weakness for us last year. We gave up a lot of deep stuff, but I think it definitely could be one of our strengths this year.”

John Wustrow is the assistant sports editor of the Idaho Press. He is a Michigan native and a graduate of Indiana University.

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