Preseason workouts begin next week

Tryve Brackin
HAKEEM DEGGS...stands in the middle of the huddle during the spring football scrimmage at Plaquemine High. The running back/backup QB and the rest of the Green Devils open preseason football camp next week.

Preseason football workouts begin next week for the three Iberville Parish public high school programs, while St. John High kicked off its outdoor workouts this week and attended a special gridiron camp in Mississippi last weekend.

All schools are moving from more emphasis on off-season weight workouts to outdoor conditioning drills in shorts and limited gear over the first few days of preseason sessions. Eventually, they will move to full equipment, contact drills and preseason scrimmages against area opponents in preparation for jamborees and the official regular season in early September. The beginning of jamboree competition is only four weeks away from today’s date.

St. John High returns as the top achieving football team from 2009. The Eagles, under the second-year direction of Barry “Tut” Musemeche, were ranked number one in the Class 1-A state polls for a number of weeks, went undefeated to claim the District 8-A title, and marched their way into the state semifinals before losing on an iced-over football field to eventual state champion Haynesville High.

A number of outstanding seniors off the high-achieving SJHS club have graduated, leaving positions open to competition this preseason. Certain varsity newcomers and returning squadmen must step up this coming preseason, according to Coach Musemeche’s spring evaluation.

Musemeche does have the services of senior quarterback Mike Martinez to lead his offense and senior safety Kade Yarbrough to guide his defense. Also, running back-linebacker Warren Bates, Jr. has attracted a lot of college recruiting interest, including S.E.C. schools. He should be a key two-way performer, along with Da’vante Williams this upcoming season.

While SJHS led the way on the parish gridiron last fall, outstanding, winning seasons also were recorded at Plaquemine High and White Castle.

Under the first-year direction of veteran prep grid coach Bob Howell, the PHS Green Devils of 2009 turned around a string of losing seasons into a 6-4 season campaign and a berth in the state Class 3-A playoffs. The Green Devils eventually lost to hosting and traditional grid power Independence High in the postseason, but rejuvenated the pride and interest in their school’s football program. Now, with the near opening of the school’s new Field House facility, spirits are very high at PHS as preseason workouts are here.

Howell has a number of key linemen and skill position players returning and has his program established now. At the heart of the PHS talent is a big and experienced front line, which includes Cody Nugent, Eliot James, and Dylan Lowe. Speed returns in new QB Darvin Butler, backs Hakeem Deggs, Troy Jones, and Nick Thomas. Treveon Hawkins is a threat at tight end and defensive end, while linebacker DeCorey Brown and defensive back LaRen Phillips are key returning starters on defense.

WCHS also had a banner season, reaching the state playoffs for the third consecutive year. The Bulldogs battling all the way to the Class 1-A regional level before losing to eventual state champ Haynesville in a high-scoring game in White Castle last fall.

Coach Ferrante Dominique is very excited about his team’s potential with several talented seniors returning for their final campaign. The Bulldogs put up big offensive numbers in 2009 and return recent LSU commitment QB-DB Ronald Martin, thousand-plus-yard rusher and junior Tyree Bracken, a number of talented skill position players, and one of the top returning linemen in the 8-A district in Gerad Carlin. But Dominique warns that West St. John has a handful of players who transferred from 5-A East St. John on their club, while St. John has plenty of talent returning to repeat in 2010.

East Iberville High, in the meantime, has had its share of ups and downs the last few gridiron seasons. A handful of coaches have come and gone over the last ten years with the longest stay of only two seasons. Second-year mentor and school disciplinarian Kelcy Dotson has said repeatedly he wants to stay to give the Tiger grid program some much-needed stability.

Dotson was pleased with his upcoming team’s effort in their spring scrimmage and has solid talent and experience in the returning group of lineman Marlon Stewart, wide receiver-running back-defensive back Greg Pickett, and fullback-linebacker Andre Wright. He has been working with new QB Joseph Bailey and is very impressed with newcomers Adrian Cummings and Jamal Walters.