Plaquemine High has four football standouts sign with universities during early signing period

Head football coach Paul Distefano, center, is flanked by the four Green Devil players who signed with colleges.

There will be four Plaquemine High Green Devils on college football rosters in the fall following the early signing period that ended Friday.

“We were lucky enough during the early signing days to have four kids committed,” said head football coach Paul Distefano, who said three would be attending Southeastern Louisiana University (SLU) in the fall and the fourth will be at the prestigious University of Virginia.

Linebacker Herman Christophe, lineman Joaquin Wicks and free safety J’Vonte Powers will be headed to Hammond to hopefully make the Lions’ football team next season while Dontavious Wicks, who is equally capable as a quarterback or wide receiver, is the one signed by the University of Virginia.

This is only the second year the NCAA has held an early signing period, Distefano said, giving colleges an opportunity to begin loading their teams with recruits sooner than in prior years.

“A lot of players around the country are waiting to sign in February, the ordinary signing period, and we may have one or two more earning scholarships,” the Green Devil coach said.

Distefano, an extremely successful coach at Plaquemine High, has taken his team to the playoffs all seven of his years as head coach of the Green Devils and with the four players signed this year, has been able to send 25 students on to college teams.

“I always leave the decision up to the kids and to their parents but I also give them my opinion about what I think is best for them,” he said. “I tell them the same things I would tell my own son, if I had one.”

Having spent as many as four years being coached by Distefano, he’s earned the respect of his players.

“For the most part, the kids want my opinion,” he said. “It’s a big decision.”

Having three players from a local high school sign with the same university is extraordinarily unusual.

“While we have in the past had more than one player on the same team, this is the first time I’ve had three sign in the same year to the same college,” Distefano said, adding he feels good about sending the players to SLU’s head football coach Frank Scelfo.

Plaquemine High has a long history with Southeastern. Four-year starter for the Green Devils J.H. Marcalin recently graduated from the university, the Green Devil coach said, his chest swelling with pride as he did.

“He had a great career at Southeastern and got his college degree so I’m very proud of him,” Distefano said.

Then the Plaquemine High coach and Iberville Parish public schools’ athletic director explained why those four players were selected.

Christophe is a three-year starter for the Green Devils and plays equally well as an inside or outside linebacker.

“He is a great kid—a quiet kid off the field but he turns into a beast on the field,” Distefano said. “He’s probably our most physical tackler and he’s a great athlete.”

Scelfo had told the Green Devil coach he was “looking for a dog on defense and he got one with Herman,” describing him as Plaquemine High’s “alpha dog on defense” during his time with the Devils.

“He’s very well respected by the other players,” Distefano said.

Powers is another three-year starter with the Plaquemine High Green Devils, described by Distefano as a “phenomenal athlete.”

“He could have been a starter for us on offense but he’s one of our top tacklers and he’s also one of our top cover guys,” Distefano said.

Wicks, the only one headed to the University of Virginia, is also a three-year starter, and Distefano said he “is a monster athlete” who is capable of playing on both sides of the ball.

“He’s got great tools to be a quarterback as well as a receiver or he could’ve shined as an outside linebacker,” he said, adding the “monster athlete” aspect of Wicks played an important role in his being selected by the University of Virginia.

“I think that’s why the University of Virginia of the Atlantic Coast Conference is willing to put trust in this guy,” Distefano said.

The Green Devil coach said there is no exaggeration of the significance of athletes from Plaquemine earning college scholarships for their abilities.

“Some, not all, of these players come from some challenging situations,” Distefano said, and likely would not be able to attend college without the athletic scholarships. “Those who are good enough—and lucky enough—have used football as a way out.”