Local football teams ready to make most of 2020 season
Call it “better late than never" for the local high school football programs, who will begin regular season next week.
The season usually begins with a jamboree in late August and follows with games from the first week of September until the first or second week of November. But the pandemic changed the game plans for the 2020 season, and nearly led to its cancellation.
Approval from the Louisiana High School Athletic Association paved the way for the season to go on, beginning next week.
Regular-season action will overlap toward Thanksgiving week, but it’s a far better prospect than cancellation for players, coaches and fans.
Here’s what the four Iberville Parish teams anticipate for the 2020 season.
Head coach Paul Distefano will lead a 70-man roster to the field for the season, but he will need the extra effort from the young team to bring the Green Devils above the .500 mark after a 5-6 finish last season.
“We’re ready to play, and we’re looking good physically, but we missed out on some workout time and practice in spring, but everyone is in that boat,” he said. “What hurts are spots like the quarterbacks, due the limited teaching time, but the defense is definitely ready to play.”
Junior Kobe Major, who emerged as “a big surprise last year,” could see some time as quarterback this season. Senior Edouard Parker will figure prominently as a cornerback and wide receiver. He has gone from fourth team to starter.
Distefano also has high hopes for junior running back Devan Luke and senior wide receiver Maurice Oubre. Freshman fullback Parker Jackson also shows a lot promise as a “strong, solid and smart” player who could see a lot of time on the field this season, Distefano said.
The Green Devils will host Dutchtown in a preseason scrimmage tonight (Thursday) at 6 p.m.
PHS visits St. Thomas More of Lafayette for the season opener Oct. 2. The Green Devils will play back-to-back home games against West St. John and Central before they begin their District 6-4A slate Oct. 23 at St. Michael.
The Eagles head into the season with a 25-man roster, but head coach Eric Holden believes the team’s work ethic could make a difference.
Senior quarterback Taylor Dupont will lead the pack for the Eagles, while junior Joseph Schlatre could make a huge impact in the slot this fall.
Holden also has high expectations for sophomore wide receivers Maddox Bennett and Tate Williams. Juniors Colt Canella and Josh Daigle will rotate in the halfback spot.
He also expects a great year from senior offensive lineman Jude Drinkwater and junior OL Landry Kleinpeter.
The Eagles head into the 2020 slate on the heels of a 2-8 finish last year, but the work players put forth during the summer could bring brighter days ahead, Holden said.
“We have a lot of work to do,” he said. “Like everyone else in the state, we didn’t get our spring in, but we had a very productive summer on workouts, and a lot of our guys lifted on their own.
Did we get as strong as we would’ve gotten without COVID? No,” Holden said. “Will we be more competitive than last year? I think so.”
The Eagles were set to begin their 2020 season Oct. 2 at Hamilton Christian of Lake Charles, but that game will likely be postponed or canceled, Holden said.
SJHS will host East Iberville on Oct. 9 and entertain Ascension Christian on Oct. 15.
Coach Justin Joseph may be a new face to the Tiger football program, but the players are very familiar.
Joseph inherited a team that went 8-3 last season under Ron LeJeune, who will apply his trade this year at Plaquemine.
“We’ve got experience all around,” Joseph said. “We had shut down practice during the quarantine, but once we returned to practice, it looked like they haven’t lost a step.”
His roster will include quarterback Rodrique Valentine, who has broadened his repertoire since last season.
“Last year, he showed off his running ability, but we’re looking to spread things out a little more to show him throwing the ball,” Joseph said.
Other standouts include the agile junior center Lance Captain, along with running back Chris Boudreaux and tight end Cedric Alexander, who has been on the college radar.
The string of success after multiple losing seasons – some winless – has made the team determined to continue the upward mobility.
“It’s the law of momentum,” Joseph said. "The worst thing we can do is get complacent and dwell on the past success rather than growing from it. It’s the mantra around here.”
A district championship – another holy grail for the program – will figure into the goals for the program.
“We have two very talented teams in District 5-1A with Ascension Catholic and White Castle, which eliminated us from the playoffs last season,” Joseph said. “So why not us? The best way to grow a program is to do better the next year, and that’s what we expect.”
The Tigers will head out on a 2 ½ -hour drive to Washington Parish for action Oct. 2 against Varnado in the season opener. They will return home the following week for senior night against Central Private, which joined the Louisiana High School Athletic Association last season after years in the Mississippi Private School Association.
EIHS will face Belaire in Week 3 and battle at St. John in an inner-parish rivalry in Week 4 action Oct. 23.
The Tigers collide with White Castle on Oct. 23 and host Ascension Catholic. Thrive Academy and Ascension Christian of Gonzales finalize the schedule.
The Bulldogs welcomed Marc Brown as their new head coach, but he’s no stranger to the area or to winning.
The Baker native coached in his hometown and worked several years at Brusly before he took the head coach job Livonia, where he led the Wildcats in 2014 to their only state championship win.
Brown hopes to bring the Bulldogs back to the Class 1A non-select state championship game this year to take care of the unfinished business from last year, when they lost to Oak Grove in the finals. The Bulldogs finished their 2019 season 9-4.
As with every other team, WCHS will find itself in the adjustment mode at the start of the season. But Brown is happy with what he has seen from the players thus far.
“The kids are moving around well, and I’m pleased with the progress we’re making,” he said. “We have to take things down a little bit and stay basic at the start, but that’s the same thing that you’ll find with every other team in the state.”
Tahj Favorite, who returns for his senior year, will head into action as the starting quarterback.
Outside linebacker Keith Landry will also figure prominently on both offense and defense, while Barry Richards will also go both ways. Jabez Allen also shows a lot of potential on offense, Brown said.
The Bulldogs will open the season at West St. Mary on Oct. 2 and entertain neighboring rival Donaldsonville in Week 2. The WCHS schedule also includes Tara, along with District 5-1A rivals Ascension Catholic, St. John and Ascension Christian.