District 9-3A New Orleans-area high school: After ‘history-making season,’ De La Salle out for even more _lowres

Advocate staff photo by RUSTY COSTANZA -- De La Salle's Da'Vante Lebranch sacks Grace King's Anthony Marin

The 2014 season was a momentous one for De La Salle.

The Cavaliers finished 8-4 and won their first playoff game since 1976 — their first home postseason victory since 1969 — with a 34-21 win over Vandebilt Catholic before falling to St. Charles Catholic.

Now the Cavaliers are looking to build on that success.

“2014 was a history-making season for De La Salle football and the school overall,” coach Ryan Manale said. “We’re excited about the upcoming season. We feel, as a school, that we’re on a path to greatness. Last year was exciting, but we have bigger goals.”

De La Salle has come a long way in Manale’s three seasons. The team dressed only 28 players in his first season.

This year, they will dress nearly 60.

“We had no eighth grade or ninth grade (when we took over the program),” Manale said. “This season, we’ll be playing an eighth-grade, ninth-grade and junior-varsity schedule for the first time. We’re going in the right direction. ... It puts a smile on my face to know De La Salle football is getting the exposure that it needs. I’m just happy for the kids.”

Replicating last season’s success will not be easy.

De La Salle will have to replace several key starters who graduated, including quarterback Victor Gaines and leading running back Cole Lewis.

“He was a guy who led by example in everything he did,” Manale said of Lewis. “(Lewis and Gaines) ran the offense in 2014, and everything went through their hands.”

Manale listed the linebackers and secondary as areas of concern after many senior departures and injuries to two would-be starters in the spring.

Three junior running backs will fill the void left by Lewis with a committee approach. Myles Ward, Jab White and Ricco Wheat bring “different elements to the table,” Manale said.

There is a three-way battle for the quarterback spot among Quincy Cage, Julien Gumms and Frankie Tabary.

The Cavaliers enter the season with two players who have made verbal commitments: Wide receiver Christian Booker has committed to Nicholls State, and cornerback Semaj Lewis pledged to Stephen F. Austin.

“I just want us to come together as a team as one and just take it day-by-day, and hopefully we can get to the playoffs and get to state,” Lewis said.

Booker agreed.

“We would like to win the state championship,” he said.

De La Salle will face a new-look District 9-3A. Perennial power John Curtis is gone, having elected to play up in the Class 5A Catholic League.

“I feel it is a more competitive district without Curtis in there,” Manale said. “But at the same time, I don’t mind playing them because I feel our program elevates every time we play them.”

St. James Parish newcomers Lutcher and St. James bring new challenges to an otherwise Uptown district. Manale expects Lutcher to be especially challenging.

“They’re extremely well-coached and have had plenty of success in the past,” he said. “But we’re looking forward to the competition.”

The Cavaliers’ non-district schedule features a difficult Week 3 road matchup with Union Parish, which reached the 3A quarterfinals last year.

Despite these challenges, De La Salle’s goals remain the same.

“Our yearly goal is to practice on Thanksgiving week,” Manale said. “That means we’ll have a chance to play for a state championship. All we want is that chance.”

TEAM CAPSULES

Clark Bulldogs

Coach: Wesley Heath

2014: 3-7, 0-2 in District 10-3A

Looking back: The Bulldogs started 1-7 (with their lone win over Ben Franklin) but ended the season on a high note with wins over Sci Academy and KIPP Renaissance.

Moving forward: Clark goes from a three-team district to one that’s much deeper with more talent. Senior Koit Evans returns at QB and will lead an offense that averaged 26.5 points in its last two games. Devin Washington spearheads a defense that gave up just eight points in those two wins.

Ask The Advocate: The district will be much tougher but, with 18 starters back, there is a chance the Bulldogs could better their win total from a season ago.

Projected starters on offense: QB Koiy Evans (Sr.) or QB Christian Jackson (Jr.), WR Darnell Lee (So.), TE Terrance Martin (Sr.), G Wesley Henderson (Sr.), C D’mar Phoenix (Sr.).

Projected starters on defense: DE Terrence Martin (Sr.), DT Devin Washington (Sr.), DT JuKwan Gordon (Sr.), LB Elvis Berry (Sr.), LB Terrence Martin (Sr.), DB Darnell Lee (So.), DB Christian Jackson (Jr.), DB De’Vante Petit, DB Delvin Petit.

Schedule

Sept. 4 Carver

Sept. 11 at Lake Area New Tech

Sept. 18 Fisher

Sept. 25 St. James#

Oct. 2 Sci Academy#

Oct. 9 Lutcher#

Oct. 16 De La Salle#

Oct. 23 at McMain#

Oct. 30 at KIPP Renaissance#

Nov. 6 at Lusher#

De La Salle Cavaliers

Coach: Ryan Manale (19-12)

2014: 8-4, 2-2

Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to St. Charles Catholic in Division II select quarterfinals)

Looking back: The Cavaliers made the playoffs for the first time since 1976 last year, beating Vandebilt Catholic in the first round.

Moving forward: Expectations are sky high for the Cavaliers, who return seven starters on offense, including Nicholls State commit Christian Booker at WR. Speedy CB Semaj Lewis, a Stephen F. Austin commit, leads a defense that has six starters back for a unit that had two shutouts in 2014.

Ask The Advocate: RB Cole Lewis graduated, but the Cavaliers are looking to build on last year’s momentum. QB play could be the key. The team should be solid on both lines, which should put the Cavs in the playoff race.

Projected starters on offense: QB Quincy Cage (5-8, 165, Jr.), WR Christian Booker (6-4, 185, Sr.), WR B.J. Randle (5-10, 180, So.), TE Sean Monconduit (6-0, 240, Jr.), T Trenton Anderson (5-11, 225, Sr.), T Jalen Haydel (6-2, 290. Sr.), G Walter Johnson (5-9, 220, So.), Jeremiah James (6-0, 275, So.); C Nick Guthrie (5-11, 225, So.), RB Jabial White (5-3, 140, Jr.) or RB Ricco Wheat (5-4, 190, Jr.) or RB Myles Ward (5-9, 170, Jr.).

Projected starters on defense: DE Danquan Edwards (6-1, 245, Jr.), DE Adam Rhea (6-2, 225, Sr.), DT Jamiran James (6-0, 275, So.), Dylan Williams (5-11, 250, Sr.), LB David Tran Gregg (6-2, 190, Jr.), LB Quincy Williams (5-5, 200, Sr.), DB Josh Paul (6-2, 200, Jr.), Da’Vante Lebranch (5-9, 180, Sr.), DB Semaj Lewis (5-9, 145, Sr.), DB Noble Scott (5-6, 140, Soph.), DB Raekwon Thomas (5-9, 145, Jr.).

Schedule

Sept. 3 Lake Area New Tech

Sept. 11 Hancock (Miss.)

Sept. 18 at Union Parish

Sept. 25 at Lusher#

Oct. 2 at McMain#

Oct. 9 KIPP Renaissance#

Oct. 16 at Clark#

Oct. 23 St. James#

Oct. 30 at Sci Academy#

Nov. 6 Lutcher#

KIPP Renaissance Bobcats

Coach: Luke Strattner

2014: 2-8

Last playoff appearance: n/a

Looking back: KIPP defeated Glen Oaks and Berwick last season as it started 2-2. But it ended on a six-game skid, scoring six points or fewer in four of those six games.

Moving forward: Strattner takes over at KIPP, which is competing in a district for the first time. The RB duo of Rasha Smith and John Rice will have to carry the load. Promising sophomores Kirk Pate and Justin Ratliff lead the defense.

Ask The Advocate: With 10 starters gone from last year’s team, the Bobcats are likely to go through some growing pains in their first year being eligible for the playoffs.

Projected starters on offense: QB Bailey Chapman (Jr.), RB Rasha Smith (Jr.), RB John Rice (Sr.).

Projected starters on defense: DL Eric Shepherd (Sr.), DL Kirk Pate (So.), LB John Rice (Sr.), LB Justin Ratliff (So.), DB Barry Martin.

Schedule

Sept. 11 at Live Oak

Sept. 18 at Northlake Christian

Sept. 25 at Sci Academy#

Oct. 2 at Lutcher#

Oct. 9 at De La Salle#

Oct. 16 McMain#

Oct. 23 Lusher#

Oct. 30 Clark#

Nov. 6 at St. James#

Lusher Lions

Coach: Louis Landrum (9-11)

2014: 5-5, 0-5

Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Parkview Baptist in Division II select first round)

Looking back: After a 4-2 start, the Lions finished the season on a five-game skid.

Moving forward: Eli Poche returns at QB. He joins four other starters on offense, and the defense returns its key players.

Ask The Advocate: The Lions should be able to snap their losing skid in the first two weeks, but it’ll be tough for them to get past some of the heavyweights in this district.

Projected starters on offense: QB Eli Poche (Jr.), RB Nicholas Albert (Sr.), RB Ari Broussard (So.), WR Simeon Thomas (Sr.), WR Jalyen Stewart (Jr.), TE Anthony Reed (Sr.), T Tamir Bryant (So.), T Samuel Davis (So.), G James Eaglin (Jr.), G Louis Lamy (Fr.), C Matthey Rillieux (Sr.).

Projected starters on defense: DL Tavis Baptiste (Sr.); DL Anthony Reed (Sr.), DL Aaron Harris (Sr.), DL Kevin Cockran (So.), LB Evan Blackstone (Sr.), LB Adam Broussard (Sr.), LB Todd Hamilton (Sr.), DB Cornell Homes (Jr.), DB Larenz Jones (Sr.), DB Ryan Theyard (Sr.).

Schedule

Sept. 4 Country Day

Sept. 11 at Haynes Academy

Sept. 18 Thomas Jefferson

Sept. 25 De La Salle#

Oct. 2 St. James#

Oct. 9 at McMain#

Oct. 16 at Sci Academy#

Oct. 23 at KIPP Renaissance#

Oct. 30 Lutcher#

Nov. 6 at Clark#

Lutcher Bulldogs

Coach: Tim Detillier (252-111)

2014: 7-5, 3-2 in District 6-4A

Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Plaquemine in Class 4A second round)

Looking back: Lutcher, led by QB Jontre Kirklin, made its 24th consecutive trip to the playoffs and advanced to the second round.

Moving forward: With 10 starters back, including Kirklin, Lutcher looks poised to keep its playoff run going. Sully Laiche will anchor the defense.

Ask The Advocate: Moving down from 4A with that many starters returning, Lutcher’s chances of winning the district crown look promising.

Projected starters on offense: WR Aldontre Davis (Jr.), RB Destin Porter (Sr.), QB Jontre Kirklin (Jr.), WR Gregory Clayton (So.), RB Narquez Jones (So.), OL Caleb Zeringue (Sr.), OL Brayden Bauer (So.), OL Rowdy Scott (So.), WR Tharrin Maddie (Sr.).

Projected starters on defense: DB Dylan Recotta (Jr.), DL Tyler Williams (Sr.), DB Ethan Bland (Jr.), DL Sully Laiche (Sr.), LB Ben St. Pierre (Sr.), DB Paul Joseph (Jr.), DB Anthony Brown (Sr.), DL Tylon Scott (Sr.), LB Thaddeus Watis (So.), DB Dontell Johnson (Sr.), LB Rashaun Preson (So.).

Schedule

Sept. 4 at Dutchtown

Sept. 11 West Jefferson

Sept. 18 at St. Amant

Sept. 25 McMain#

Oct. 2 KIPP Renaissance#

Oct. 9 at Clark#

Oct. 16 at St. James#

Oct. 23 Sci Academy#

Oct. 30 at Lusher#

Nov. 6 at De La Salle#

McMain Mustangs

Coach: Kevin Roussell (38-27)

2014: 6-5, 1-3

Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Port Allen in first round)

Looking back: The Mustangs started 4-1, then leveled off a bit. Their signature win was a non-district victory late in the season against Belle Chasse.

Moving forward: With 10 starters back on offense, McMain could be one of the most explosive offensive teams in the area. The Mustangs have playmakers like QB Darnell Williams, who threw for more than 2,200 yards last season. Williams has a pair of go-to WRs in James Howard and Jamairyn Wallace. LB Oscar Oliney led the team in tackles last season and is back.

Ask The Advocate: McMain’s offense has a chance to put up eye-popping numbers like Riverside and Warren Easton did a season ago. If the defense is even halfway decent, the Mustangs have a chance to make some noise.

Projected starters on offense: QB Darnell Williams (5-11, 180, Jr.), WR James Howard, (6-0, 195, Sr.), WR Jamairyn Wallace (6-3, 190, Sr.), WR Kevin Edgerson (6-1, 175, Sr.), WR Tahiro Marks (5-10, 170, Sr.), T Jacobi Rhodes (6-1, 250, Sr.), T Islam Bowman (6-3, 260, Sr.), G Dallas Black (6-0, 240, Jr.), OL Grerard Bruno (6-1, 280, Jr.), C William Jefferson (6-2, 260, Sr.), RB Nicholas McCaskill (5-10, 185, Jr.).

Projected starters on defense: DL Stephen Lee (5-11, 260, Sr.), DL Kahlil Wilkes (6-2, 265, Jr.), LB Oscar Oliney (5-11, 215, Sr.), LB Najee Gordon (6-2, 205, Sr.), DB Ashton Demas, DB Colby Richardson.

Schedule

Sept. 4 at Newman

Sept. 12 at Cox

Sept. 18 Warren Easton

Sept. 25 at Lutcher#

Oct. 2 De La Salle#

Oct. 9 at Lusher#

Oct. 16 at KIPP Renaissance#

Oct. 23 Clark#

Oct. 30 at St. James#

Nov. 6 Sci Academy#

Sci Academy Nautilus

Coach: Cornelius Dukes (2-5)

2014: 2-5

Last playoff appearance: n/a

Looking back: Sci Academy played basically a non-varsity schedule last season.

Moving forward: This season, the team plays a regular varsity schedule as it tries to set a foundation for the future. Kevin Dunn and Brandon Smoot will have to provide a spark for the offense.

Ask The Advocate: The LHSAA didn’t do Sci Academy any favors by putting it in this district. The first year could be brutal, but you have to start somewhere.

Projected starters on offense: WR Michael Hutchinson (Jr.), WR Floyd Williams (Jr.), TE Joshua Parker, T Julian Alvarez, T Devin Boatner, G Michael Allen Woods, G Joshua Bridges, C Ryan Richard, QB Kevin Dunn (Sr.), RB Brandon Smoot (Sr.), RB Kimmey McNeal (Jr.).

Projected starters on defense: DL Jermaine Bowens (Jr.), DL Darren Miller, DL Don Adams, DL Michael Allen Woods, LB Allen Sandifer (Jr.), LB Jamario Warner (Jr.), DB Malcolm Stewart III (Jr.), DB Ishman Clarke (Sr.), DB Malcolm Gordon II, DB Jeferson Suarez, DB Kendrick Ions, DB Rondell Brown.

Schedule

Sept. 4 at Fisher

Sept. 11 at Pearl River

Sept. 18 at Belle Chasse

Sept. 25 KIPP Renaissance#

Oct. 2 at Clark#

Oct. 9 St. James#

Oct. 16 at Lusher#

Oct. 23 at Lutcher#

Oct. 30 De La Salle#

Nov. 6 at McMain#

St. James Wildcats

Coach: Dwain Jenkins (14-12)

2014: 8-5, 5-2 in District 8-2A

Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Many in Class 2A quarterfinals)

Looking back: After losing four of their first six games, the Wildcats reeled off a six-game winning streak. QB Lowell Narcisse had a monster sophomore season, throwing for 3,127 yards and 31 TDs.

Moving forward: The Wildcats make the leap to 3A. Narcisse, who has committed to Auburn, tore his ACL in the spring and is out for the season. With Narcisse, the Wildcats were a serious contender to make it to the Superdome. DeMarcus Williams will take over at QB and hopes he can have the same magic as a sophomore that Narcisse had. LB Aquindas Steib is a tackling machine.

Ask The Advocate: It’s scary to think how dangerous this team would be with Narcisse. Without him, it will still be good, but a trip to the Dome may have to wait.

Projected starters on offense: QB DeMarcus Williams (5-11, 175, So.), C Tywon Johnson (5-10, 255, Sr.), G Tyler Broden (5-10, 250, Jr.), SE Arron McKenny (6-3, 180, Sr.), SE Dontaze Costly (6-0, 175, Jr.), SE Curtlan Johnson (6-0, 175, Jr.), T Trevaugh Boldin (5-11, 175, Jr.), T Bryant Grows (6-3, 240, So.), T Ziyshonne Harry (5-10, 255, So.), SE Rashod Pierre (5-11, 175, So.), RB Aquindas Steib (5-11, 215, Sr.).

Projected starters on defense: DT Chandon Hickerson, DT Jason Dumas, DE Tyriek Stewart, LB Aquindas Steib (5-11, 215, Sr.), LB Brehlun Domino, LB Camrin Grows, DB Jai Lewis, DB Kaelan Zenon, DB Shawn Preston, DB Tyren Jasmin.

Schedule

Sept. 4 West St. John

Sept. 11 Bogalusa

Sept. 18 E.D. White

Sept. 25 at Clark#

Oct. 2 at Lusher#

Oct. 9 at Sci Academy#

Oct. 16 Lutcher#

Oct. 23 at De La Salle#

Oct. 30 McMain#

Nov. 6 at KIPP Renaissance#

# — district game