High school football coaching changes are as much a part of Louisiana as Mardi Gras and crawfish season.
They’re not always a cause for celebration. When you take three prominent coaches and toss them into each other’s jobs, you’ve definitely got something.
David Brewerton, Guy Mistretta and Neil Weiner can’t say exactly what that “something” is just yet. One thing is certain, life is different for the long time colleagues.
“We’ve talked to each other plenty,” Brewerton said. “I’ll get a call from Guy, and he’ll ask, ‘Brew, where can I find the physical forms?’ Then later, I’ll call Neil and ask, ‘Where are the chin straps stored?’”
Coaching changes like theirs are rare. The chain reaction started late last year when Mistretta resigned as head coach at The Dunham School after three seasons, including a 6-4 record last fall.
Next, Weiner accepted the head job at Class 2A Dunham and resigned at Zachary High after leading the Broncos to a 9-4 record and their first appearance in the 5A quarterfinals.
Brewerton, who led Livonia to a runner-up finish in Class 3A, was introduced as Zachary’s new coach in February. Mistretta was hired to replace Brewerton at Livonia a month later.
“You know it’s funny in a way,” Mistretta said. “All our personalities are different. But a lot of the schemes and things we run are similar. As a coach, you’re energized every time you move into a new challenge. I think we’re all in situations that are a good fit.”
The trio coached together at Redemptorist when current Central High coach Sid Edwards led the Wolves to prominence more than a decade ago. Brewerton also was an assistant to Weiner at Catholic-Pointe Coupee. As Livonia made its run to the 3A title game, Mistretta made his way to the Pointe Coupee Parish school to watch a few practices.
Adjustments are inevitable even in a comfort zone. Weiner attended Dunham when it was known as Trafton Academy and when his father, Catholic High coach Dale Weiner, was the football coach.
At ZHS, Weiner routinely had more than 100 players. Dunham currently has 25 players.
“Zachary was a great place for me and my family,” Weiner said. “Both offer great communities. At Dunham, it’s on a smaller scale, and I’m enjoying that part. Smaller numbers are something you expect at a 2A school. With 25 players, we’re looking at having a number of guys who’ll have to play both ways.
“When guys go both ways, it changes how you plan and the way you practice. Sometimes, you have to practice longer to get everything in because you can’t do offense and defense at the same time. We have some very good football players in the group we have, and I’m anxious to see how we do.”
Brewerton has the opposite issue. Zachary started the spring with a 165 players and now has approximately 120 players going into grades 10-12. Approximately 60 freshmen are expected to join the team when the season starts. Livonia typically had around 60 players on its roster.
“Obviously, you have to structure things differently with so many guys,” Brewerton said. “We’ve got a solid group of starters back. I ran the same defensive front they did last year, and we run a different variation of the spread, which has made it easier.”
Coordinators Kenny Langlois (offense) and Steven Thomas (defense) came with Brewerton from Livonia. Ex-Parkview Baptist and Ruston assistant Pat Hall and former Port Allen assistant Paul Fouquier also have joined the staff.
There are other new faces in Livonia. Ex-Brusly assistant Marc Brown (offense) and former Broadmoor assistant Chuck Guidry (defense) are the Wildcats’ new coordinators. Deuce Harrison, a former Catholic High assistant who was most recently at St. Stanislaus, is the strength coach.
Brewerton and Mistretta also were drawn together by the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s late spring investigation into an ineligible player that forced Livonia to forfeit seven of its football wins. Mistretta said the Wildcats are focused on the future.
The major challenge for Mistretta is melding together the returning Livonia players with those coming from 1A Pointe Coupee Central, a school that closed in May.
“We had maybe 10 to 12 PCC guys who came and went through spring with us,” Mistretta said. “People were worried about us having problems, saying some guys would be jealous. We haven’t had any issues at all. A lot of the guys are related, and they get along. We’ve turned the page now. Nobody mentions it (LHSAA investigation). It’s a new season.”
Each coach has identified key personnel. For example, quarterback Lindsay Scott returns at Zachary after starting most of last season. Linebacker Chase Day is among the leaders for Dunham. There’s a battle for the quarterback job at Livonia. With running back Malcolm Dedrick returning and Stephen Guidry, a 1,000-yard receiver at PCC last season, there will be weapons.
Those phone calls to each other will likely decline once the season begins and the three teams compete in separate classifications. The camaraderie and friendships will remain.
“We’ll be checking to see how each other do, no doubt,” Weiner said.
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