Chopticon girls basketball head coach Joe Cook enters his eighth year at the helm of the Braves, but the 2018-2019 All-County Coach of the Year will face a new challenge this season.

“We are very young,” Cook said. “Twenty of the 26 kids in our program are freshmen or sophomores.”

With a youthful squad this season, Chopticon will lean on its three senior captains to help lead by example with their experience in the program.

“I think we will do well this year,” senior captain Caitlyn Burch said. “We are young so we have to put a lot of extra work in. We went pretty far last year, so we hope we can go far again. We just need to keep pushing ourselves to do better and I hope we have a good season.”

Last season, Chopticon finished the season with an overall record of 18-7. The Braves knocked off St. Charles and Great Mills on the road to begin the playoffs before falling to Baltimore Polytechnic Institute in the Class 3A South Region final.

“We just learned to work hard from last year when we went pretty far,” senior captain Darcy White said. “We are just looking to work hard again this season.”

Katelynn Perrotta, the third senior captain on the Braves this season, knows the importance of setting an example for the younger players to follow in years to come.

“I think our team has lots of potential even though we are young. We have lots of strong guards and bigs. I personally think that we can make it all the way if we put in the hard work,” Perrotta said. “It’s mainly about us three seniors as the captains to really push as much as we can with the [new] girls and help them to understand what we are as a family and as a team. We have to set a good example for the young girls.”

Last week, the Braves scrimmaged two teams as Cook continues to learn more about all of the new players and faces in the program this winter.

“[The scrimmages] did show that we are very young and have a lot of work to do. The kids have worked extremely hard. They don’t shy away from hard work, they listen and are very coachable,” Cook said. “The positive [to being young] is that we have some good kids that are willing to work hard and are taking it all in. Hopefully by February we are a better team. The negative side [to being young] is that we are going to make a lot of mistakes.”

Another challenge facing Chopticon this season will be looking to fill the void left by Ciara Thomas, the All-County Athlete of the Year a season ago as a senior.

“Last year we didn’t have a lot of bodies, but we had a darn good point guard and some other good players that are still here,” Cook said. “We do have three starters that are coming back which is a positive with Burch, Perrotta and [Lilly] Reynolds, but Ciara is a big loss. [Our seniors] are going to have to really pull their weight if you will and step up in different ways. Even though we are young, we have kids that work hard and I think by February or so we will be a much better team than we are now.”

Chopticon is slated to host McDonough to open the season at 7 p.m. Friday.

“With this team being so young, [us seniors] just want to help them out with every game and every practice getting used to the game and high school sports,” White said. “For the young athletes, they just need to soak it all in because time flies. It is crazy. Since freshman year, I have learned that if you work hard every day it will pay off.”

Twitter: @johnniswander2

Twitter: @johnniswander2