For the first time in almost two decades, there will be a new face on the sidelines at Higgins this season.
But as first-year coach Craig Laborde will quickly tell you, there are plenty other changes Hurricane fans can expect to see as well.
“We changed the helmets, the uniforms, the logo, the offense and the defense,” Laborde said. “Change is the name of the game around here right now. We are trying to get kids excited about football again around here.”
Hurricane fans can get a glimpse of some of those changes Thursday when Higgins plays Helen Cox at 8 p.m. in the nightcap of the Westbank Optimist Classic Football Jamboree at Hoss Memtsas Stadium. John Ehret will play Thomas Jefferson at 4 p.m. and Shaw will play West Jefferson at 6 p.m.
Laborde is looking to turn things around for a team that last reached the playoffs in 2010. He replaced long-time Higgins coach Wayne Meyers.
One of the changes Laborde has installed is an offensive scheme far different from the power game that Meyers thrived on.
“Coach Meyers was a proponent of three yards and a cloud of dust,” Laborde said. “When they had their most successful seasons, they had big powerful offensive linemen and big powerful backs. Higgins doesn’t have that any more. We are kind of undersized. So we are opening up and going to a pistol spread offense and trying to get the ball to skill guys in space and make defenses defend the whole field.”
The defense changes as well, switching to a 4-2-5.
“We are looking to get more athletes on the field, float to the ball better and match up better with spread offenses,” said Laborde, a Rummel graduate. “It’s just a new mindset. Interest in football had waned here. It had become more of a school known for basketball. We are trying to drum up that enthusiasm and return it to its previous glory.”
His staff includes assistants with connections to the past.
“We have three or four coaches who are Hurricanes, who bleed blue and gold, and that will hopefully help us keep kids that should be at Higgins,” Laborde said. “I think we have an exciting brand of football and kids on offense get more touches.”
Junior quarterback Jordan Joseph will run the offense. The defense, led by safety Bryan Davis, returns most of its starters from last season’s team that finished 2-8. The only two victories came against Sci Academy and Bonnabel.
“Hopefully we can make a run at the playoffs this year,” Laborde said. “Ehret is loaded, and it’s a tough district, but if we can handle our business, there is no reason we can’t make the playoffs as a wildcard. That’s one of or goals.”
Higgins will get a sneak peak at one of its district opponents in Thursday’s jamboree against Cox, led by do-it-all quarterback Dion Ray.
“We’ll tone it back a little since we have to play them again in October,” Laborde said. “They are talented, and we will have to try to contain their quarterback. Our kids are excited about football again, and that’s the first step to being successful.”
Higgins opens the regular season on Sept. 5 on the road against defending Class 4A state champion East Jefferson.