Teams with longtime ties and three news coaches means District 7 will be one of the toughest in 2A again.
Dunham, University, Northeast, Episcopal, Redemptorist and Capitol comprise 7-2A.
Northeast and Redemptorist are dropping down from 3A. The other four were in this district last season.
New coaches in the league are Redemptorist’s Aaron Vice Capitol’s Damieon Mills, Dunham’s Guy Mistretta, who was making his mark at Redemptorist before this season.
Veteran Northeast coach David Masterson is glad to be back in 2A after six years in 3A.
“Last season we were competing in tough 3A district,” Masterson said. “The bad part is we were a pretty good ballclub. We lost to six teams that went to the quarterfinals or better (in the playoffs). We were the smallest 3A team.”
Other district coaches said one of the key things for them will be depth. Masterson said his team has the typical depth found at a 2A school.
“The depth factor is minimized a little,” Masterson said about 2A. “By the time the fourth quarter came we were blown (playing on the 3A level). Now, we will get tired together in the fourth quarter.”
An experienced quarterback returns to direct the Northeast offense.
“Quarterback Ronnie Davis has demonstrated the ability to both run the ball and throw the deep pass,” Masterson said.
Davis started the first four games in 2010.
Gone from Redemptorist are running back Jeremy Hill and offensive tackle La’el Collins. Collins is at LSU now.
But the Wolves don’t believe they are rebuilding.
“Our motto is to ?Protect the Tradition’ of Redemptorist High School and our goal is to compete for a district championship,” Vice said.
Vice said the Wolves run an up-tempo passing game, a big change from the Hill-Collins power running game of last year. He said the Wolves will be an aggressive defense but will have to make the transition from a four-man front to a 3-3 stack.
Vice is one of the league’s coaches concerned about depth.
As is Episcopal’s Travis Bourgeois who is trying to avoid having several players going both ways.
Episcopal finished as the 7-2A runner-up last season and went 10-2 overall. But on offense they lose four linemen and their top running back. The Knights are in better shape on defense with eight returning starters. Among the defensive starters returning is linebacker Mike Henry.
“We’re going to find out early who can help us,” Bourgeois said about last year’s junior varsity. “It helps when you have a three-year starter like (Vincent) Dellocono.”
Last season, Dellocono passed for 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Mahaffey, in his second season at U-High, has a seasoned group returning.
“We have a bunch of returning starters (seven on both sides of the ball),” Mahaffey said. “They feel more comfortable, more familiar with what we are doing.”
Mahaffey’s offense has the potential to roll up some big numbers.
“We’re a no-huddle, spread offense,” he said. “We want to play fast as a group. With the spread offense, we want to get the ball to a lot of people.”
At quarterback there are two talented players in last year’s starter, Kyle Crifasi and newcomer Nik Kragthorpe, son of LSU football assistant coach, Steve Kragthorpe.
Crifasi threw for 1,091 yards last season.
Mahaffey listed both quarterbacks as No. 1 on his depth chart. He’s approaching a couple of ways.
“We have to see how it plays out,” Mahaffey said. “If somebody develops into the best guy, we’ll go with him. If it looks like it’s better to play both, then that’s what we’ll do.”
Mahaffey said both players are good enough athletes to play wide receiver when they are not at quarterback.
Add to those two, freshman running back Nick Brossette, 6-foot-one, 215 pounds. As an eighth-grader, Brossette rushed for 1,018 yards and 17 touchdowns.
“The kids are receptive,” Mistretta said about the system he is installing. “One thing we’re stressing is intensity. The kids have bought into (the new system) - the kids and coaches (those who stayed from previous regime).”
Mistretta said the true test will come in the heat of the battle - a game.”
Among the returning players for Dunham is senior tackle Drew Schoen (5-11, 255). Schoen was a first-team all-district pick last season.
Capitol’s Mills faces a difficult task. The Lions will be short-handed this season. Uncertainty surrounded the school early in the summer, with talk of the school closing. Because of that, many Capitol players from last season transferred to other schools.