A little more than a year ago, Jesse Cassard became Zachary High School’s athletic director. Reflecting on his first full school year in the post, Cassard points to what he considers a positive momentum shift in the school’s athletic fortunes that he wants to see continue next year.

“We had a very good year. All of our athletic teams made it to the playoffs in their sports,” said Cassard, who just completed his 10th year as Zachary’s baseball coach. “I think all of them are off to a good start and headed in the right direction, but we’re expecting more than just making playoffs. All of the coaches are coming back, and I’m excited about what’s going on. Our administration is on board.

“We’re very fortunate to have an administration that supports our athletic program. Across the board, people above us know how it works and they let us do our thing in athletics. It’s nice to have their full support.”

Some of that support will be visible beginning next football season when the Broncos will play on a newly resurfaced field in Bronco Stadium. David Brewerton’s squad was one of this year’s highlights, earning a spot in the state semifinals where they lost 9-3 to eventual Class 5A state champion Acadiana.

“I think the biggest thing last summer was developing a toughness mentality through our programs,” said Cassard. “Football set the precedent early and was a few points away from the state championship game. The other programs built on that momentum.

“We’ve had 41 Division I (college) football programs visit our school in the past two weeks. There’s a lot of interest in our players and that’s a credit to our coaching staff, who will all return next year.”

The Bronco Stadium track is also being resurfaced, and with the success of the Lady Broncos, the future is bright indeed. Led by sophomore phenom Janie O’Connor, Zachary’s girls captured the indoor state championship and claimed their second straight outdoor crown.

There were plenty of successes in other sports, like softball, where the team advanced to the state quarterfinals in Sulphur and the girls golf team finished sixth in the state.

Cassard said building upon last year’s successes will require an off-season strength and conditioning program. The school has invested more than $18,000 in its weight room for that purpose.

“Our strength and conditioning program has gotten better, and we’ve made big-time improvements in the weight room,” Cassard said. “We are emphasizing for our athletes to get strong and become faster. We’re on the ground floor of a great strength and conditioning program.”

Cassard said most of the athletic teams have plenty of returning players to form a nucleus and will build from there. Boys basketball, for example, graduated one senior and the roster is loaded with freshmen and sophomores, who will be developed by coach Kenny Almond.

“All teams basically have plenty of returning starters,” said Cassard. “Next year should be phenomenal. We have a lot of athletes coming back.”

The exception is Cassard’s baseball team, which was seeded third in the state tournament but was stunned in the first round by 30th-seeded Archbishop Shaw.

The team had a good year but not a great year like Cassard had hoped with a veteran club.

“We lost nine seniors and seven of them are going to play in college, so we have a lot of holes to fill,” said Cassard. “We may not be the most talented, but we’ll be the toughest team. We’ll put the same amount of emphasis on winning, otherwise, it wouldn’t be fair to the seniors.”

He said the emphasis will be on building momentum over the summer, not only with the strength and conditioning program, but also through participation in camps and club sport activities. Momentum over the summer will lead to good things for the next school year, Cassard said.

“Most sports are year-round, and the training is year round,” Cassard said. “One thing we tried to put an emphasis on is playing two sports. Three sports at a 5A school is going to be tough, but the paradigm is swinging back to do multiple sports. The more they compete, the better they will be at competing.

“I’m excited, and I think it’s gonna be a great year. We’re not going to rest on any successes from last year. You’re only as good as the last game played, so everybody starts fresh on the first day of school.”

Send sports news, photos and stats to Howard Arceneaux at harceneaux@theadvocate.com.