CENTRAL - Brennan West and Lance Wicker don’t enjoy the same facets of a football offense.
One thing the two Central Private School seniors agree on: They’ll do whatever it takes to make the Rebels successful.
“There are people out there who don’t expect us to be that good this year,” Wicker said. “I want us to prove them wrong.”
Central Private, of the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools, becomes the first Baton Rouge area team to open its regular season on Friday. CPS hosts Pineville-based Cenla Christian at 7 p.m.
The 6-foot-2, 165-pound Wicker plays wide receiver and defensive back, while West (6-0, 245) is an offensive tackle-middle linebacker.
When West and Wicker said they’re willing to do whatever it takes, they understand that means something new.
Central Private was 5-6 a year ago and has been in the MAIS playoffs the past five years. But a smaller roster with 27 players and a limited number of true linemen has prompted CPS coach Mike Longmire to move to a more wide-open offense.
That will amount to less run blocking for West and more potential receptions for Wicker.
“I don’t like pass blocking all that much,” West said. “Basically, you’re just trying to hold people out of the backfield.
“There’s a little more to run blocking. I know we’ll need to do some different things this year, and that OK, as long as we can be successful.”
Past CPS teams have relied on a traditional I formation and a running attack. This year’s I spread is designed to find the right balance.
“In this league, there’s a lot of variation when it comes to the level of the skill players you see,” Longmire said. “The one constant is that you usually have big linemen.
“This year Brennan is the biggest guy we have. We can’t just go out and run over people on every down.”
West is about 40 pounds heavier than the other CPS linemen. With center Rhett Sequin being the only other returning lineman, West has more of a leadership role. He’ll also handle deep snapping duties.
Wicker is part of a young receiving corps that looks to make its mark. Returning starter Luke Fryoux and Tara transfer Kyle Blackburn are expected to split time at quarterback.
“I’m excited about us throwing the ball more,” Wicker said. “It’s a challenge. We’ll need to run good routes and do a good job of catching it. You’ve got to be able to move the ball down field. Running isn’t the only way you can do that.”
Longmire and CPS passing game coordinator Bill Burk praised both players. Carl DiJohn is the running game coordinator and also works with the linemen. Longmire and his son, Jami, coach the defense.
“Brennan is a big, strong kid,” Longmire said. “This will be his fourth year as a starter and he’s gotten better every year. He’s so smart and he moves his feet well. That’s why we’re able to play him at linebacker on defense.”
Burke, the former Zachary High head coach, compares West to a player he coached at Tara High, Brian Duncan, who went on to play at Texas Tech.
Wicker’s development as a receiver has impressed Burke, who coached both players on the sixth-grade level.
“Lance was one of our slower players as a sixth-grader and now he’s one of the fastest,” Burke said. “That’s a credit to his work ethic. He made himself a better football player.”
Longmire is confident Wicker can be a No. 1 receiver and that West is up for the challenge the new offense brings.
“We’re going to try and get the ball into his (Wicker’s) hands,” Longmire said. “Brennan has stepped up to become a leader for us.
“The roles are different, but they’re both going to be a big part of what we’re doing.”