Prediction: Cornerstone looks to move closer to state glory

Published 4:29 pm Wednesday, August 9, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

COLUMBIANA – Cornerstone came painfully close to the state championship game in 2022, and this year, they want to make sure that they are playing for the title when the dust settles.

Last year’s semifinal loss to Springwood hurt the entire locker room because they knew they could beat the Wildcats. They topped the region champions, 52-50, in the regular season, but they could not figure out Springwood in the playoffs.

This year, the Chargers are back and looking for revenge after proving to themselves that they can win in the postseason.

Cornerstone will be fueled by a high-powered offense even by eight-man standards after averaging 37.6 points per game last season, as well as a solid defense to contain their opponents.

More than anything, this Chargers team has become a brotherhood according to players and coaches, and the continuity that they carry over from last season after graduating just two seniors will only help them build on their success from last year.

That strong offense starts with quarterback Zeke Adams, who had over 3,000 all-purpose yards in a breakout year last season. Adams is even more confident in the offense as a junior, and he is bigger, faster and stronger than last year, and those improvements should make him an even better centerpiece to the Chargers offense.

Adams’ speed in the running game will be complemented with Cohen Hewitt and Drake Dunning in the backfield. Each brings something special to the running game, but all three should be dangerous in space if they find it.

As for the receivers, both of the main pass catchers bring skill and experience to the group as Noah Shober and TC Sanders are both back for Cornerstone. They have some exciting new additions behind them, as Seth Dillard is a converted lineman and Jackson Waugh and Keaton Keef both have great athleticism and receiving ability.

Landon Alexander will be expected to be the playmaker once again on both sides of the line, solidifying the run game and wreaking havoc on defense. Malachi Adams and Gabe Allmon will both be hard to deal with thanks to their size and skill.

Behind the line, the Chargers have a lot of athletes who will be able to make plays. James Wilson will be the centerpiece of the linebacker group along with Dunning and Keef. In the secondary, Shober, Sanders, Waugh, Keef and Colton Hewitt will use their speed and athleticism to make life difficult for receivers around the region.

Cornerstone has a solid identity and the players to make it work, which combined with their culture and continuity make them a team to watch going forward.

Prediction: 6-4. Cornerstone has one goal going into 2023: play for a state title. That has been all that the Chargers have worked towards since the clock expired in the semifinals last year. With so many key pieces back, it’s easy to pick the Chargers to be better than they were last year. Win-loss wise, I don’t think Cornerstone will flip too many games from last year simply because they suffered multiple double-digit losses in 2022 and they may not have enough to close those gaps this year. That said, making the state championship game is still a very attainable goal for this group, especially if they peak late in the season. The Chargers players said that they are coming into this season with an underdog mentality and they are hungry to go further than last year. With a dynamic offense, great defense and positive culture, if there was ever a Cornerstone team to get over the hump and compete for silverware at the end of the season, it’s this one.