Searching for stability, Country Day turns to Chetta
Stability is a key to success anywhere, at any level.
Country Day has been a solid football program in recent years but the Cajuns are facing the challenges of a lack of stability at the top.
Joe Chango departed after the 2019 season of his own accord after a very successful stint. Guy Lecompte took over and did a nice job but departed after just two seasons.
Now, the Cajuns have their third head coach in four years in Chris Chetta.
While Chetta has no previous head coaching experience, he has significant experience as an assistant coach at Amite, Archbishop Rummel and Jesuit before spending the last two years as an assistant coach under Lecompte at Country Day.
Chetta certainly hopes to provide much needed stability to the program.
“It’s a blessing to have this opportunity,” Chetta said. “I appreciate their confidence in me and to be able to bring in a good staff. Bringing in Troy Baglio to run our defense is big. We’re excited to get out on the field to see where we stand.”
Chetta has gleaned a ton of knowledge from outstanding programs and coaches.
“I’ve worked under great coaches for many years like Vic Eumont, Mark Songy and Jay Roth and with a great experience at Amite,” Chetta said. “I learned so much under those people in those experiences.”
A year ago, Country Day was 6-3 and reached the state quarterfinals.
The Cajuns must replace a host of excellent players who have graduated, including Scott Isacks III, Parrish Abramson, Mike Talbot and several others.
The offense returns four starters, including three senior offensive linemen in Jake Ibieta (6-1, 220), Ethan Smith (5-11, 213) and Colin Cummings (6-1, 188). They are joined by juniors Hagan Mimeles (6-1, 223) and Casey Rizzi (6-0, 220).
“We are experience up front with three starters back and a fourth who played some previously,” Chetta said. “I feel like it is our strong suit.”
The quarterback is junior Sinnot Bland (5-11, 159).
“Sinnot was in the mix to be the starter last year and he lost a close competition to a senior,” Chetta said. “He has done so much over the spring and summer to work so hard to read defenses to get us in the right calls. I think he will have a great year.”
The running back will be senior Taj Oberhelman (5-10, 187). Senior Alden Senette (5-4, 155) will also see a lot of action.
“We have a running back by committee,” Chetta said. “Taj started on defense last year. He runs tough. We’re excited about him. Senette has worked hard and it is his time as a senior.”
One starting wide receiver returns in senior Yash Gupta (6-0, 158). Joining him is senior Jack Schwing (5-9, 142) and junior Mason Snyder (5-10, 142).
Senior Clayton Gehman (6-2, 208) will line up on the outside and at tight end. Gehman had 13 catches for 227 yards and three touchdowns last season. Gupta had 12 catches for 153 yards and three touchdowns and Schwing caught seven passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns.
“Gupta started last year and is a team captain,” Chetta said. “He is highly intelligent and runs great routes. Snyder will play on both sides of the ball. He has track speed. Schwing is a senior and he can really run. I am really excited about Gehman. I think he has a chance to play at the next level.”
The defense returns five starters.
Up front, Cummings, Ibieta and Rizzi all return and will be joined by Mimeles. Ibieta had 30 tackles, including six for loss last season while Rizzi had 17 stops, including three sacks.
“We have to play a lot of guys both ways,” Chetta said. “Ibieta is a mainstay for us. We like him as well as Rizzi, who was all-district last year. Cummings is a senior captain and he can run.”
The linebackers are all new starters in seniors Senette (5-4, 155) and Sam Schlesinger (5-6, 170), along with sophomore McAllister Callejo (6-0, 170). Gehman will play there as well.
“We have a few guys in the mix and we are evaluating there,” Chetta said. “We will have it in place by week one.”
The secondary returns a pair of starters in Schwing and Oberhelman while the other starters are slated to be junior Brock Masson and Snyder, along with Gupta.
Schwing had 18 tackles and two interceptions in 2021. Oberhelman finished with 40 tackles, including six for loss with an interception and a fumble recovery.
“Oberhelman can play linebacker or safety for us,” Chetta said. “We like him all over the field. Schwing and Gupta are good players on defense as well.”
The Cajuns have a superb kicker in senior Connor Gibbs.
Last season, Gibbs nailed all six field goal attempts with a long field goal of 44 yards. He was 36 of 39 on extra point attempts and produced 24 touchbacks.
“I feel we have a real advantage with Connor,” Chetta said. “We could see this a couple of years ago. I think schools will recruit him. He is that good.”
The schedule opens at Northlake Christian on September 2 followed by a home game with Ellender and a road game at Episcopal. Then comes a tough two-game stretch at home against Amite and Riverside Academy. Country Day will then play Douglass and The Willow School.
District 10-2A play begins with a bang at Newman before hosting defending Division III state champion St. Charles Catholic. The regular season finale is on the road against M.L. King Charter.
“I put Amite on the schedule,” Chetta said. “That is a real challenge and I love that program and area. We are desiring to be that. We know where St. Charles Catholic is as a championship program. Newman is very talented. Riverside is very scary with their running backs. Episcopal is always good.”
Depth is an issue for the Cajuns so they will have to avoid injuries as Chetta looks to maintain the winning ways of the program while looking for an extended stay at the Metairie school.
“We have great kids here who are dedicated to the goal of getting to the ‘Dome,” Chetta said. “It is a great place with excellent young men. If we can stay healthy, we love our team. We can surprise and even shock some people if we avoid injuries.”
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…