None of the players on Madison Prep’s football team grew up dreaming of one day playing for the Chargers — mainly because there was no program to aspire to at the time.
Madison Prep has formed a team with players that other schools in the Baton Rouge area left behind and is becoming one of the biggest surprises in District 6-1A heading into a Week 7 matchup with Southern Lab on Friday.
Each player has their story about how they ended up on the Chargers’ sideline and running back Quincy Banks and wide receiver Otis Dunmars are no different.
Just two years ago, Banks was a freshman safety with Class 3A Port Allen. He opted to move to Madison Prep and sat out last season before gaining eligibility.
“For me, it feels like I have to work harder since I had to sit out my 10th-grade year,” Banks said. “I have to come out stronger, I have to want everything more, I have to want those extra yards, I have to want those touchdowns, I have to go out and play and do what I know how to do.”
But now Banks, a player MPA coach Michael Roach describes as “the best kept secret in the state,” is getting his chance on the field, and he isn’t letting it go to waste.
“They look at me at first and say, ‘Coach, you don’t know what you’re talking about,’ ” Roach said. “But now he comes up to me and says, ‘Coach, that may be the best thing that’s ever happened to me, for me to sit out and being able to come over here and start.’ ”
In his first season as a varsity running back, Banks is proving Roach’s faith to be well placed and his former coaches wrong, something he never lets himself forget.
Through the first six games, Banks has 60 carries for 651 yards and five touchdowns for the power-running Chargers offense.
“All my coaches at Port Allen were telling me I wasn’t a running back, I was too big, I couldn’t do it,” Banks said. “Every week I go out there, I feel like I’m proving another person wrong, and that’s the best feeling I can have.”
Dunmars’ road to Madison Prep wasn’t voluntary. The senior came to the Chargers a year before his previous school, Istrouma, closed. Once on the Madison Prep campus, the former Istrouma quarterback was asked to switch positions by the coaching staff — a move he wasn’t thrilled about initially, but came around to Roach’s line of thinking.
Dunmars tore an ACL midway through his junior season and was forced to watch the end of the Chargers’ first varsity season from the sideline.
“It was hard at first, but I learned some games you just aren’t going to be able to play in,” Dummors said. “You’re not playing but you still have to boost (teammates’) heads up.”
Roach told his new receiver to be patient and wait for his opportunities. And once again, Roach’s faith was deserved.
As one of the few seniors on the young Madison Prep squad, Dunmars leads the team with 246 yards and seven touchdowns on 22 receptions. Last week, he even played the hero be returning one of his teammate’s fumbles for a touchdown against Christian Life on Friday.
At 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, Roach described Dunmars as a physical receiver who is able to go up and get the ball over defenders. He also said the senior is receiving looks from schools like Texas Southern and Howard University and was invited to play in the All American Bowl, which pits high school all stars against their counterparts in Mexico.
But even with his success, Dunmars, like the rest of Madison Prep, is keeping focus on district play for now.
After all, the way Roach, the former Southern Lab coach, puts it, every game is historic when you’re only a week removed from the program’s first ever district win.
“We’re trying to get our guys to understand that if you want to play at a real high level, you have to be willing to play the folks like Southern Lab and the tradition that these guys have,” Roach said.