Jason Wilkins knew being a head football coach for the first time would change some things once fall practice started.
Now that his Belaire High School team has gone through its first few days of practices in shoulder pads, Wilkins reports some of the changes have been positive.
After having about 20 players attend summer workouts, Wilkins said the Bengals have had between 35 and 40 players attend practice each day this week.
“Getting some more kids out for the team is so big for us,” Wilkins said. “We understand that it is a process.
“We’re in a situation where we’re trying to change mindsets and get these kids to take more pride in their school and the football program.”
Class 4A Belaire is coming off an 0-10 season and Wilkins vows to take it one day at a time.
“We’re still trying to learn names and we’re making sure they have all their gear,” Wilkins said. “There’s a lot of teaching going on.”
Like many of his players, Wilkins is also learning more about multi-tasking.
Because he is one of only four BHS coaches who teach at the school, Wilkins also is the equipment manager and has to make sure everything is set up for practice before the players get on the field.
By the numbers
It is not usual for a Class 5A football program to have more than 100 players. But the numbers for several local schools are notable.
Denham Springs has its most players ever, with 118 players in grades 10-12, along with 84 freshmen.
“Getting everything worked out for practice takes some planning,” DSHS coach Dru Nettles said. “Tomorrow we’re going to have team pictures made and we’ll be in a situation where there won’t be jerseys for everybody for a team picture.
“We’ll take the varsity picture and a JV picture. Then we may have to give some of the freshmen jerseys from those guys to take a picture.”
St. Amant currently has 110 varsity players and 75 freshmen. Other 5A numbers to note include: Catholic (98 varsity players, 58 freshmen), Zachary (98 varsity, 48 freshmen) and Central (90 players).
Starting to add up
Capitol’s numbers, both in terms of enrollment and players on its football team, have exceeded some expectations.
Athletic director Alvin Stewart said the school has about 200 students enrolled, about 50 more than July estimates.
First-year coach Damieon Mills has 25 players attending practices for the Class 2A Lions.
Both sides now
First-year Southern Lab coach Nick Mitchell comes from East Ascension, a Class 5A school that typically had a roster of 80-100 players.
Figuring out how to make sure the Kittens’ 37 players in grades 8-12 get proper work on both sides of the ball has become a key part of practice planning, Mitchell said.
“On Class 1A you just don’t have the depth and more guys have to go both ways,” Mitchell said. “The first thing we have to do is make sure they are in good enough shape to go both ways.
“Then it’s a matter of making sure they get enough reps to understand and execute what we need. Hopefully, along the way we’ll get some other guys who step in and help us develop some depth.”
Central coach Doug Dotson on explaining the Wildcats’ change from an option offense back to a pass-oriented spread.
“Last year I felt like we were in a big Mack truck and that was really a great ride,” Dotson said. “We were able to run over people.
“But now we’re back in a Ferrari. We’ve got some guys who can run past you. That’s a pretty good ride, too.”