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Central football season begins Saturday

Central High School’s varsity football team, which features some key experience, makes its long-awaited return to action this Saturday, March 6, when it hosts Cumberland County High School at 1 p.m.

Due to COVID-19 regulations, admissions will be limited.

“Just the fact that we’re playing, we’re just excited,” Chargers Head Coach Will Thomas said. “The kids are just happy to be out here.”

The Chargers’ 2020-21 season, delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, had five games on the schedule as of Tuesday, March 2, and Thomas hopes to see a sixth game added.

“We hope to get six, but we’re kind of looking because we have people in the district not playing, so we’re really scrambling, and we’ve been trying to scramble for a couple games for folks out there in Region A, and that’s been hard because a lot of those guys aren’t playing,” he said.

He indicated Central did not have any junior varsity (JV) games scheduled, though the athletics department would like to add some, if possible.

Thomas said close to 40 student-athletes have come out to play football for Central across the varsity and JV age levels. Due to weather- and COVID-related delays, they are very early on in the training process.

“We haven’t even assigned numbers yet,” Thomas said Tuesday. “We’ve practiced five days. This will be our sixth day, so it’s a rat race, man.”

He estimated that the varsity team had 20 practices before entering its first game of the season in 2019.

“We’re not going to have half that this year, but I’m hoping everybody else is kind of in the same boat,” he said.

Thomas said this iteration of the varsity Chargers has key experience on the offensive line.

“That’s been a massive plus. A lot of the guys that started last year are back, and they all decided to play,” he said. “Jordan Daniel, Mark Strigel, Hunter Hinkle — those guys played last year. Jordan’s a three-year starter. This is his third year.”

Thomas said they are all seniors, and the group also includes senior guard Rashaun Richardson.

They will be blocking for mostly new faces.

“We lost pretty much our whole backfield except Nyjae Carter, and he’s back,” Thomas said of the junior running back known for his flashes of speed during the 2019 season.

The coach said the team will also feature some experienced JV players, including junior A.J. Jones.

“But other than that, we’ve got a bunch of sophomores, and for the first time in a long time, we’ll have some freshmen playing, which is good because these freshmen can actually play, they’re good players,” Thomas said. “They would play regardless of what’s going on because they’re pretty tough and have some experience.”

Thomas indicated he hopes experience will help carry his team at the beginning of the season.