Four games into the season the Plaquemine High football team reached its first crossroads.
The Green Devils had just completed their nondistrict schedule with a 1-3 record and seemingly limped all the way home after a 37-0 loss
at third-ranked Assumption High.
One week before the start of District 6-4A play, Plaquemine was hardly in the right frame of mind, but Green Devils coach Bob Howell said a heart- to-heart talk among the coaches and players “to air out some laundry” a day later served as a driving force in the team’s reversal of fortunes since Sept. 23.
“We got whipped as good as I’ve been whipped by Assumption,” Howell said. “That was the low of the lowest. We’ve been able to pick ourselves up, dust off our pants and continue the process and have been able to win some games.”
Plaquemine has responded from its worst loss in the two-plus seasons under Howell with three consecutive wins and can match its longest winning streak since Howell took over when the Green Devils (4-3, 3-0) host St. Michael the Archangel (6-1, 2-1) in league play at 7 p.m. Friday.
“Honestly the water’s fixing to get deep again,” Howell said of home league games with St. Michael and No. 4 Lutcher (6-1, 4-0) in Week 10. “We’re far from a team that’s saying, ?hey, let’s hurry up and get to the playoffs.’ We’re in a process. The jury’s still out.”
Plaquemine, which reached the Class 3A state playoffs the past two seasons, sandwiched losses to Brusly and Vandebilt Catholic by a total of 12 points around a 28-26 win over South Lafourche.
Then came the nightmare in Napoleonville, where Assumption is still undefeated at 7-0 in Class 4A.
Howell found little comfort that his team lost to Class 4A Assumption. Against Assumption, the Green Devils gained only 133 yards and had six first downs.
Moreover, there were a series of mental breakdowns. After an early goal-line stand, Plaquemine jump offside on a field goal attempt and wound up surrendering a touchdown.
“I was definitely concerned,” Howell said. “You can tell them you’ve prepared a lot of tough games for them, but that’s not much solace.
“I’ve got 32 years of experience, and they’ve got one or two. I feel very fortunate they trusted us and continued to come to practice and give great effort. They’ve worked on developing themselves as football players and as a team.”
Plaquemine has revitalized its season with a dominating show in district, outscoring opponents, 115-12. Two of those wins came on the road over Tara (22-6) and Istrouma (56-6). A 37-0 triumph over Broadmoor came at home.
A good part of the Green Devils’ resurgence can be attributed to balance on both sides of the football and relying on a team concept rather than one superstar.
Sophomore fullback Julius Marcelain is the team’s leading rusher with 547 yards (7.1 per-carry average) and four touchdowns. Junior running back Hakeem Deggs is next with 519 yards (9.6 per carry) and seven touchdowns. Deggs also returned two kickoffs for scores. Junior quarterback Ricky Aro (323 yards, four touchdowns) has continued to evolve in the team’s option-based attack.
Right tackle Dylan Lowe is the team’s lone senior offensive lineman and someone Howell calls: “Our glue.”
Plaquemine’s experience is more obvious on a defense that features seniors cornerbacks Quentel Jackson and LoRen Phillips and free safety Deondre Philson.
Philson is tied with linebacker Jaquel Smith for the team lead with 28 tackles. Sophomore lineman Davon Godchaux has 27 to go along with a team-best eight tackles for loss, and junior defensive back DeVonte Jenkins has 26.
“I saw kids doing things maybe not on the football field, but what was best for the team that kept my spirits up and showed me the character was there within them,” Howell said. “We just had to work ourselves through it.
“They’ve come back and had good practices and not let this thing fall apart.”