Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Livonia's Malcolm Dedrick breaks away from Port Allen defenders on his way to a 90-yard touchdown on a punt return Friday in Livonia.

He plays linebacker and has emerged as one of the area’s top running backs. Don’t try to trip up Livonia High’s Malcolm Dedrick with a question about choosing one over the other.

“All I want to do is play football, so it really doesn’t matter to me,” Dedrick said.

Dedrick’s comment is as direct as his running style. Through two games, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior has 379 yards and seven touchdowns to pace the ninth-ranked Wildcats, who have scored 87 points going into Friday’s game at Morgan City.

When first-year Livonia coach Guy Mistretta came to the school to meet the players last spring, Dedrick was one guy who stood out, but not just because he looked like a good athlete.

Mistretta’s story speaks volumes about Dedrick, who primarily played linebacker during Livonia’s run to the Class 3A title game last fall.

“You know when I first met him, he had a cast on his arm,” Mistretta said. “He broke his wrist in either the last regular-season game or one of the first playoff games and never complained about it.

“He just said it was a little sore and got it wrapped up and played every week. He wanted to play, and I think he was afraid to say too much about it because the coaches wouldn’t let him play.”

That desire and drive have helped make Dedrick a key part of the transition between David Brewerton, who is now head coach at Zachary, and Mistretta. The transition also includes the addition of players from Pointe Coupee Central, another Pointe Coupee school that closed last spring.

“I can’t tell that much of a difference coaching-wise,” Dedrick said. “Things are pretty much the same. Having the PCC players come here has been good, too. We graduated some good players last year, and those guys give us more speed and size.

“Some people worried about (moving PCC players to Livonia). But it’s worked out good because we all knew each other before this year.”

Dedrick is one of the Livonia players who knows the former PCC players quite well. He grew up playing youth football with them in the New Roads area and moved to Livonia before his freshman season.

At the time, he couldn’t predict the resurgence of the Livonia program. The year before the Wildcats had won just two games.

Dedrick said the ascent of Livonia to near the top of the Class 3A ranks has been as much about attitude as physical play.

Mistretta said Dedrick is a team leader and a school leader. He carries a 3.4 grade-point average and has football scholarship offers from Southern Miss and Grambling, both of whom were impressed by his defensive play.

In addition to football, Dedrick also plays center field for the baseball team and is a sprinter with a 4.5-second 40-yard dash time. Some day, he’d like to be an accountant.

Even though he is good with numbers, Dedrick said he had no idea how many yards he had after taking over at running back when Barrick Slaughter was injured in Livonia’s Week 1 game at Live Oak. In turn, Lionel Johnson has handled Dedrick’s outside linebacker chores with ease.

“I knew I had some yards and had scored touchdowns, but I didn’t have any idea how many,” Dedrick said. “I was a little surprised.”

With Slaughter set to return from a bruised knee this week, Dedrick might now be splitting the carries at running back. That suits him fine. So does the fact that pollsters have LHS ranked at the bottom of the Class 3A top 10.

“I’ll be able to play more on defense,” Dedrick said. “I’ll play where the coaches want me to. Our goal this year is not (just) to get to the title finals. We want to win it.”