Dutchtown football coach Benny Saia and his football team are looking for some redemption from last season’s results.

“I felt like we underachieved last season,” Saia said. “It was the first losing season (5-7, 2-3) we’ve had in 10 years. We thought we were going to be pretty good, so that was a disappointment.”

But some things have to turn around for the Griffins to be successful in 2015-16. “If we can play good football, not make mental mistakes and keep the turnovers down, we will have a good team this season,” Saia said.

The Griffins averaged 4½ turnovers per game last season, so hanging on to the football will be very important this year.

There are four senior starters returning to help bolster the offense. Wide receiver Cornelius Washington, Fitell Bolding at running back, tackle Lloyd Cushenberry and guard Mylik McWilliams will be the experienced players to build around.

Jared Sparks will be the quarterback leading the offense for the Griffins. “He’s got a lot of talent, skills and tools. He got to play an appreciable amount of football last year so that should help him in his starting role this year,” Saia said. “Junior Cullen Gordon will play an important role at center this season. He will be starting for the first time as will Jared Sparks at quarterback, and the snap is one of the most important parts of an offensive play.”

The defense was the bright spot on the team last year and five starters will return from that squad to keep the opposing offenses off the field.

“Last year’s defense was one of the best we’ve had come through here,” Saia said.

Two returning seniors who made first team All-District last season are Coney Durr, at cornerback, and linebacker Terrance Lymon. Second team All-District Ricky Thomas is at cornerback along with second team All-District linebacker Sean Pruett. Those four, along with returning junior lineman Kyle Sarrazin, will be the nucleus of what should be a solid defense.

Second in championship

The bass fishing team of Braden Blanchard and Cade Fortenberry put together a solid pattern on July 22-25 fishing Kentucky Lake in McKenzie, Tennessee, to finish in second place in the Costa Bassmaster High School National Championship presented by TNT Fireworks.

Like every other team in the competition, the pair struck out for the ledges that usually hold schools of giant bass. After working the deep spots on the first day of practice with nothing to show for their efforts, the pair opted to head to the shallow water, a place they were comfortable with.

“We covered plenty of water on that second day and finally found them in one small area,” Fortenberry said. “But that small area had two spots we could fish.” Blanchard and Fortenberry only spent enough time on the third practice day to make sure the fish hadn’t moved.

Their hunch paid off as the bass had remained in the two spots.

“I can’t tell you how important it was for us to find fish on a lake we’d never been to,” Fortenberry said. “Catching 3- and 4-pounders took a lot of pressure off. We knew we’d be competitive and maybe even have a chance to win.”

The team relied on four baits to catch their fish. A Delta Lures spinner bait and chatter bait along with a Yellow Magic Popper and a Missile “D” Bomb turned out to be their arsenal.

“On the first day we caught them on the spinner bait and popper,” Blanchard said. “On Day Two, we caught them on just the spinner bait and on the third day the chatter bait and a Missile ‘D’ Bomb were the baits we caught them on.”

On Day One, Blanchard and Fortenberry elected to fish their first spot. It was a canal that had lots of trees, logs and wood for cover. Using the spinner bait and popper, the Gator team weighed in a five-bass limit of 17 pounds, 11 ounces that put them in fifth place, well within striking distance of the first-place team.

On Day Two, a big rainstorm set in that not only delayed the start of the fishing day for 90 minutes, it muddied up their primary spot. At 11:30 a.m., the team only had two fish and decided to go to their second spot, a mud flat covered with lily pads. The water was 2 feet deep on the flat but there was a creek channel that dropped to 4½ feet. That’s where the big ones were. Their five-fish limit of 16 pounds, 6 ounces caught on the spinner bait moved them up to third place.

On Day Three, Blanchard and Fortenberry stayed on the mud flat and caught 25 or 30 bass on the chatter bait and the Missile “D” Bomb and culled up their weight for their five-bass limit to 17 pounds, 14 ounces and moved up another spot to finish second place to eventual winners Alex Heintze and Justin Watts, of Livingston Parish.

The old saying, “Finishing in second place is like kissing your cousin,” doesn’t fit this scenario as Braden Blanchard said, “Second place out of 136 teams all across the USA and Canada is quite a feat.”

I happen to agree. Good job, fellows, and we all hope you qualify for the Bassmaster Classic High School Championship next March in Oklahoma.

Kids Fishing Rodeo

Another type of rodeo took place Saturday. Under the effects of an unusually early cool front and fall-like weather, the East Ascension Sportsman’s League held its 55th annual Kids Fishing Rodeo. One hundred eighty-seven exuberant kids lined the banks of both ponds at Twin Lakes Park to try their luck to catch fish and win one of the coveted trophies.

The fishing started at 7 a.m., so it didn’t take long for the screams of youngsters catching bream, bass and catfish to fill the air. Two hours later, the horn was sounded for fishing to stop and kids to bring their catch to the weigh-in.

Smiling youngsters lined up one after another to proudly let the weigh-masters, Jim and Warren Hebert, tally the count. After dealing with the fish, hot dogs, jambalaya and doughnuts were the order of the day as the totals were counted and the trophies awarded.

The awards ceremony started off with four bikes being given away, then the trophies were handed out by Parish President Tommy Martinez. Every kid who fished in the event had a chance to win a door prize provided by the many sponsors and the East Ascension Sportsman’s League.

I’d say this was another very successful Kids Rodeo, made possible by lots of volunteers to keep this herd of kids in order.

To learn more about the East Ascension Sportsman’s League or become a member, visit easlonline.org.

Lyle Johnson covers sports for The Ascension Advocate. He can be contacted at reelman@eatel.net or ascension@theadvocate.com.