Lejeune circles back to EIHS grid

Tryve Brackin

Ron LeJeune seems top be going in circles. He will move to East Iberville High as the new head football coach as his long career as a grid mentor makes a full circle around from Iberville Parish to East Baton Rouge and back to the future in Iberville. 

LeJeune has had a successful career both as a head and assistant football coach. His teams always got better after his stays. During my years on the POST SOUTH staff I always had a good relationship with Ron. He is an open, relaxed communicator with both the media and kids that play the grid game.

He is returning to EIHS after many stops, serving as the head coach at both Belaire and Tara in EBR Parish. I recall he also had a stint at Brusly High as an assistant. LeJeune will be leaving Plaquemine High as an assistant mentor to take the EI head position after five years at the parish’s largest high school.

He is taking over a Tiger football program that has floundered in recent years. Last year the EI club ended a string of four winless seasons, but that low success mark has dotted the Tiger program over the last 40 seasons. More than one talented young Tiger has moved on to nearby parishes and become prep, and some college, standouts. The Eastbank school actually dropped football for two years back in the Sunshine High days, but since then the community has long supported keeping a gridiron program at the school. The East Iberville Magnet School basically has shared the ability to put players on the Tiger Stadium turf in recent years.

Enrollment on the eastside has long been a problem at Sunshine and later EIHS. The community of St. Gabriel has only begun to grow over the last 15 years with suburbs sprouting up here and there. Only a half-decade ago the senior class at EIHS had a mere six to ten graduates. But the Magnet school and population growth has crept along.

LeJeune will step into a situation very similar to that of his first stint at EIHS…losing football games. The last four decades only LeJeune, Kelsey Dotson, and Charlie Hazard have produced .500  or slightly better seasons at the school.  A small handful of other former mentors managed to bring Tiger teams from zero to two-to-four win seasons.

However, LeJeune has previous experience and connections with the territory, the school, and the community. Meanwhile, he will have an experienced, proven head defensive coordinator with the addition of Gary Burnett, who mentored in the EBR Parish system for a number of years.

Basketball has long been the frontrunner in athletic success at the school. It is easier to fill out a 12-man hoop roster than a 30-40-man football squad. LeJeune experienced that his first time around and managed to develop enough talent to fill the stands and give the east bank some pride and victories on the gridiron. I think the former St. John High running back standout (whom I covered in my early years) will do quite well yet again. LeJeune can teach the game.

LeJeune is not the only new Parish football mentor penciled in before the start of spring practices. Aaron Meyer has accepted the position of head football coach at White Castle High, replacing a relatively successful Lamar Thomas. Last year Thomas led WCHS to the Class 1-A regionals in repeat seasons despite a 4-8 overall record.

The Bulldogs have fielded a number of recent years of football success. Ferrante Dominque got the program rolling with a number of winning seasons and the school’s first modern day state football title in 2010. Thomas continued a handful of playoff runs.

This will be Meyer’s first head coaching position. He was an assistant at nearby Donaldsonville High and is leaving Washington-Marion High of the Lake Charles area to come to White Castle.

HOOP SUCCESS: The Bulldogs marched last week to the state 1-A semifinals with a regional 77-46 victory over Grand Lake followed by a quarterfinals 65-4 victory over Haynesville. Those two victories put Coach Troy Green’s Bulldogs in a semifinal berth against top-seeded Sicily Island two days ago and after this article’s deadline. 

Going into the semifinal early last week the Castlemen had reached the seeding position and power rating expected of them by prognosticators of number four in Class 1-A. Standout frontcourt talent Ja’Tyre Carter and former St. John cager Princeton Young combined for 33 points to lead a balanced WCHS offense in the quarterfinals win over Haynesville.

It looked like Plaquemine High would join WC in the semifinals, but the Green Devils had their hopes dashed Friday night by third-seed Westgate High. The Lake Charles club topped six-seed PHS by a 90-81 score to advance. It was a very unusual scoring tally for PHS, which throughout the season averaged slightly more than 60 points of offense, while holding foes to slightly less than 50 points. Coach Donald Ray Johnson’s District 6-4A repeat champion Green Devils were an impressive 28-8 overall.