Livonia High knows the sweet taste of football success after advancing to the Class 3A championship game a year ago. And that’s what Donaldsonville High is craving.
The two 3A teams on the outer limits of the Baton Rouge metro area are primed to push things to the limit. Livonia of District 5-3A and Donaldsonville of 9-3A are set to open their 2014 seasons with jamboree action Thursday night.
Livonia travels to Lafayette to take on Breaux Bridge in the Lafayette Kiwanis Jamboree at Clark Field. Donaldsonville hosts Class 2A St. James at Boutte Stadium for what is part of the River Parish Jamboree.
“I’ve been extremely pleased with how things have gone,” first-year Livonia coach Guy Mistretta said. “We had to replace some guys in key roles, but really the transition has been smooth. With that said, we’ve got a tough schedule, so we’re going to be tested early and often.”
Mistretta replaced David Brewerton, who is now head coach at Zachary High. He comes in with a résumé that includes winning a 3A state title in 2005 at Redemptorist. The veteran coach actually dealt with two transitions, his own into the Livonia job, and the addition of players from now-defunct Pointe Coupee Central.
Factor in Louisiana High School Athletic Association sanctions for using an ineligible player, which cost the District 5-3A Wildcats seven wins and that 3A runner-up trophy, and it’s fair to say plenty has happened since Union Parish ousted Livonia 33-27 in double overtime in the 3A title game in December.
Donaldsonville’s offseason, by comparison, was less eventful. There will be some notable changes in Benny Guilbeaux’s second season. Guilbeaux, who starred at Opelousas High, and played at Notre Dame, sees the possibilities for the Tigers of District 9-3A, who were 5-7, but lost 33-30 to Church Point in the regional round a year ago.
DHS also has a top prospect in 6-foot-6 junior receiver-defensive end Stephen Sullivan, who has played just two years of organized football and committed to LSU last spring.
“Donaldsonville is known for having athletes,” Guilbeaux said. “(Sullivan) has come a long way and so has the team. They’ve both matured. Last year we won some games because we were talented.
“Hopefully this year we’ve put in more preparation and more work and that should aid us in winning games. There are a lot of very good teams in 3A, but we have the talent to give ourselves a chance to make a run at (the state title). We’ll have to do a lot of things right.”
Doing things right and having players in the right position to make big plays will be a key for both teams.
Livonia graduated RB/LB Russell Farris, who moved on to Louisiana Tech after rushing for over 1,600 yards. Barrick Slaughter and Malcolm Dedrick will fill the RB/LB roles this year. Dedrick already has his share of offers from colleges, including Southern Miss.
The key for both teams may well be quarterback and line play. Cee Jay Powell has settled in as Livonia’s starter after a spring competition for the job. Donaldsonville junior Tyler Brown experienced some growing pains last season, but in Sullivan and 6-3 Jaquel Gant he has some large targets to aim for.
Guilbeaux has installed a spread attack to take advantage of the size and speed of the Tigers’ receivers. Sullivan is also expected to take some snaps at quarterback. Two-way linemen Floyd Foster and Tyarise Stevenson also are set to play key roles for the Tigers.
Tackle James Todd is the lone returning starter on Livonia’s offensive line. Receiver Stephen Guidry, a Class 1A all-state performer last season, is one of several ex-PCC players expected to be difference makers for Livonia.
“We’re a lot like everyone else at this point,” Livonia’s Mistretta said. “We’re anxious to play somebody else.”
St. Amant High’s LeBlanc’s Jamboree has been moved from The Pit to Dutchtown High on Friday night.
The Gators will host District 5-5A and Ascension Parish rival East Ascension for freshman, JV and varsity games starting at 6 p.m. Friday.
SAHS Principal Mia Edwards said in an email that the move was made to allow the new grass on the The Pit to grow an extra week. The SAHS home stadium is located at St. Amant Middle School.
“In an effort to allow a little more time for the growth of the new grass on our field, the jamboree against EA this Friday has been moved to DTHS.” the email said. “Only the location has changed — everything else remains the same. We are the home team and will occupy the home side of the field.”