LAFAYETTE — When Northside High School started the season with consecutive losses to Class 5A powers Acadiana and Carencro by a combined score of 88-27, coach Vince DeRouen had a brief message for his team: Believe.
“I told the guys, ‘Believe in each other and believe in the scheme,’” DeRouen said. “Just try to claw back. It’s always easier when you win, but we try to take something out of a loss, too.”
At one time, the Vikings planned on having 10 returning players back on offense. But then quarterback Jasper Turner moved to Morgan City and receiver Dwayne Benjamin was ruled academically ineligible. Even though Turner moved back to Lafayette, injuries also took a toll.
“The kids believed in what we were doing, but we had to kind of throw some of the younger kids into the fire and put them on the field,” DeRouen said.
The Vikings managed to climb back to 3-2 with wins over McKinley, Woodlawn and LaGrange.
In DeRouen’s 10 years at Northside, he took the 2004 team to the Class 4A state final with an offense fueled by current Detroit Lion (and former LSU player) Keiland Williams. Kenneth Batiste and Terrell Alfred followed Williams in the line of Vikings’ running backs to keep the offense churning along.
Northside’s road to 3-2 this season has included a group of seniors who believe in themselves,” DeRouen said.
Receiver Monkurvis Irvin is listed at 5-foot-5 and 140 pounds. He has 25 catches for 203 yards.
“He thinks he’s 6-foot-5 and 220 (pounds),” DeRouen said with a smile. “But we know he can’t take that continuous pounding.”
Senior safety Brandon Lard had six interceptions in 2010. He has two this season to help anchor the defensive backfield.
“I just had to keep thinking about picking up my teammates and thinking we will find our groove,” Lard said. “Those losses gave us a hunger to play harder.”
It is a thought shared by senior linebacker Gaston Williams.
“Playing powerhouse offenses (Acadiana and Carencro), it was us learning from mistakes,” Williams said. “Working hard at practice has helped us on Fridays.”
The Vikings will get their first taste of District 5-4A play when they visit Cecilia (2-3) on Friday. DeRouen said the weekly grind does not slow down because of a few weeks of success. The Vikings beat Cecilia last year 20-12.
“We have played Cecilia before, and they play us hard,” DeRouen said. “We have had dogfights with Cecilia even when we felt like we had outstanding teams.”
Triple on the Teche
St. Martinville Senior High is 4-1 under first-year coach Gary Adkins following a season in which the Tigers finished 2-8.
Adkins, who has been a head coach at several schools including Port Allen, White Castle and Donaldsonville, has the Tigers on a four-game winning streak heading into the District 5-4A opener Friday against longtime rival Breaux Bridge.
“I call our offense ‘Triple on the Teche,’” Adkins said. “We run the double and triple option. It lends itself to five or six guys carrying the ball. Our backs are all the same kind of kids.”
The workload has been split evenly among a few different options. Fullback Jude St. Julien has 60 carries for 329 yards and four touchdowns. Running back Jamiah Nelson has 166 yards and a pair of scores. Lorenzo Chaisson has 154 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback C.J. Chaisson has chipped in with 44 carries for 335 yards and eight TDs. Through the air, Chaisson is 16-for-36 for 434 yards with four scores and one interception.
“This works well for our kids,” Adkins said. “We have fresh legs at all times. They have to block well for each other. You can’t be selfish in this offense.”
The Tigers will tangle with a Breaux Bridge team that is 5-0 and ranked second in Class 4A.
“Breaux Bridge has good skill position guys, and they are good up front,” Adkins said.
“It’s a challenge. St. Martinville and Breaux Bridge are an old rivalry, so we’re looking forward to it. Our community is really excited.”