Not surprising, a share of them are products of Cherokee County.
Through the tryout process, the number of players on the rosters fluctuated quite a bit, but as of Thursday night, nine players from the county were listed on the roster. Not all of them will be traveling with the team and some may just be on the scout team, but all of them are now Eagles.
Among those who made the cut were Cherokee High School product Dylan Haynes, a quarterback, and Sequoyah’s Coleman VanDyke, a defensive back. So did Creekview’s Austin Chester, a linebacker, and running back Zane McDaniel, a former home-schooled player from Ball Ground.
Woodstock has four alumni on the roster in tight end Shane McCleskey, receiver James Busby, defensive back Jake Ingram and linebacker Chas Pierce.
The 25-year-old McCleskey is giving football another try after originally signing with Murray State out of high school. His college career was derailed in 2007, when he was dismissed from Murray State following his arrest for his alleged role in a campsite fight at Lake Allatoona.
Three former Etowah standouts — offensive lineman Jakob Hassan, defensive back Vashaun Washington and kicker Ryan Hopper — are also on the team.
Reinhardt coach Danny Cronic, who has local ties from his time as Cherokee’s coach in the mid-1970s, said the local players give the team a special flavor.
“We hope it means that people we come out to support them,” Cronic said. “We hope parents and friends come out to see all the players, but that is a bit easier for the ones that are from around here.”
Haynes, Washington and Pierce are all listed high on the depth chart for Saturday’s opening game at Mercer.
Haynes, a sophomore, is listed as Johnathon Chamblee’s backup at quarterback, while Washington and Pierce top the depth chart at their respective positions.
Chester and Ingram also made the travel roster.
“Some of these decisions are just so tough,” Cronic said.
Cronic said more goes into the decision of who makes the roster than how players perform in practice. With Reinhardt only allowed to offer so much financial aid to players, occasionally a player with lesser skill than another may make the roster because he isn’t receiving as much scholarship money.
“Even these kids that don’t make (the travel roster), you still pull for them,” Cronic said. “You want to see them succeed.”
Much like high schools, NAIA football programs can have both varsity and junior varsity teams. Many of the players who aren’t on the travel roster will be spending time not only on the scout team, but getting game experience against other junior varsity squads.
Cronic feels it’s important to keep the non-traveling players up to speed with the game and allow them to continue developing. After all, with another year, some may be on the travel roster as sophomores or redshirt freshmen.
“We are a young team,” Cronic said. “The thing now is that they want to play early. To so many, that is a selling point, but it isn’t always in the best interest of the player or the team. It can be hard to tell them that, but it’s just the way it is.”