Some of the Baton Rouge area’s top senior football players are set to end their high school careers with Sunday’s U.S. Army Red Stick Bowl.
The annual all-star game set for 2:30 p.m. at Olympia Stadium features the Black Knights and the Rough Riders. Talent for the teams is dispersed through a draft. Both squads are eager to prove those selections were the correct ones.
“What we have here is a collection of the best athletes in the Greater Baton Rouge area and surrounding areas,” St. Michael coach Paul Varnado said. “It’s going to be a good show for both sides.”
Brett Beard, who coached at Woodlawn but accepted the job at Live Oak during the week, is head coach for the 45-player Black Knights. Varnado is head coach for the 45-member Rough Riders.
While at Woodlawn, Beard coached against 17 of his Black Knights players in District 5-5A games. He also has four Woodlawn seniors on the his all-star team.
Most players will have played at least one-regular season game against one or more of their all-star game teammates. The coaches have also coached against players on their team, factors that make these matchups a little more intriguing.
“Watching those guys go from district opponents to come together and play as a part of your team, that’s what’s fun,” Beard said. “The kids in this area play great football. Now you get to see all those studs come together, put their craft together and gel together.”
Varnado has players from Parkview Baptist, Livonia, Denham Springs, Lutcher as well as Catholic-Pointe Coupee, Springfield, St. Michael, Zachary and White Castle.
There’s been a little trash talk between teammates about who beat who during the season and toward opponents about who will win. Beard enjoyed hearing the playful banter throughout the week.
The teams also have some well-known players. Recent Nicholls State commitment Charles Brooks of Woodlawn and Plaquemine’s D’Morea Wicks are the quarterbacks for the Black Knights, while the Rough Riders have St. Michael’s Jeffrey Vaccaro and Catholic-Pointe Coupee’s Jonas Guichet at quarterback. Running back Malcolm Dedrick, who helped lead Livonia to a Class 3A state title just over a week ago, is part of the Rough Riders roster.
“These kids know each other,” Beard said. “They’ve battled against each other for four years now. It’s one last chance for them to get after it. You hear them make the comments, you can’t help but laugh. We got some great football in this state much less great football in this area.”
It can be hard to pick starters for all-star games. To choose his four starting defensive linemen, Rough Riders defensive line coach Clark Nocentelli of Central Private created a competition. Anytime the defense went head-to-head with the offense during practices, Nocentelli made it an opportunity to earn points. He added up all the points up at the end of the week, and the four players with the most points will be the four defensive-line starters.
Varnado added Sunday’s game will help many of the players better understand the speed of college football by playing with other all-star athletes. He said he hopes the Rough Riders respond to the challenge.
“The speed of the game will be different for some players,” Varnado said. “The best players from teams will play football with the best of the Baton Rouge area. When high school kids go to college, everybody’s faster.
“It’s definitely an eye opener for some of these guys to see how fast their competition moves in practice. It’s going to be just as fast if not faster on Sunday.”