COVINGTON — When St. Paul’s finished third in District 6-5A last season, it was a bit of a milestone — and not a pleasant one for the Wolves.
The school had won or shared nine consecutive district titles heading into 2014, compiling a 34-1 record in league play since 2008. But Ponchatoula, the eventual district champion, had a fantastic team in 2014 and throttled St. Paul’s 52-16. And Mandeville, possibly the Wolves’ top rival, also earned a district win over St. Paul’s in a 14-7 struggle.
But the 2015 version of St. Paul’s isn’t fretting about the past. Players resoundingly said their goals don’t end with a District 6-5A championship.
For them, the season hopefully ends with a Division I select state championship in December.
Of course, a district title would be nice. But truth be told, the players and coaches don’t seem overly concerned with finishing third in the 2014 district campaign. They said it’s a chance to play as an “underdog” and to “surprise some people” in 2015.
“I know this may sound kind of crazy, but I’m glad we lost (district) last year,” senior running back Dominic Davenport said. “This year, coming back, we have to work hard. We just have to go get it. We’re not on the throne this year. We are kind of an underdog, and now we have to man up.”
A deep and talented squad figures to help St. Paul’s be a difficult opponent this year. Seven starters return on both offense and defense, and leading the way is senior quarterback Kenny Sears. The 6-foot-3 signal caller, who has committed to Northwestern State, threw for 2,058 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2014.
Sears said he and his teammates have something to prove. He’s well aware of the recent winning tradition at St. Paul’s, having followed his father, coach Ken Sears, the entire time. The elder Sears is entering his 17th year as head coach at the school.
St. Paul’s finished 2014 with a 7-4 record, losing in the first round of the Division I playoffs. The Wolves were 5-2 in District 6-5A.
“It’s the first time in a long time to lose a district championship,” Kenny Sears said. “We have a lot of guys returning, and we all have something to prove to everyone in the district. … A lot of times (last year), we didn’t start out strong and had to finish strong to make up the difference in the game. Sometimes, we started well and then fell off at the end. We need to work on playing great football, intense football for four quarters.”
His coach agreed and said the Wolves have made strides in that regard during preseason practice and summer camp (which was held in Thibodaux). Still, he knows nearly a decade of near-dominance at St. Paul’s means the Wolves are going to get each opponent’s best effort in 2015.
“Being dethroned by a great Ponchatoula team gives you motivation to win a district title,” he said. “It’s been good for our program in the offseason. It’s been good motivation to work hard, and this group has a good work ethic.”
Sears has seen it up close in his college-bound son.
“Kenny’s progression (last year) as the season went on was an amazing transition,” he said. “Certainly, he met our expectations. As a dad and a coach, I was very proud of him. But there’s always room for improvement. He knows he has a lot of areas he can get better at. He worked really hard in the offseason, so we’re excited about going forward in the season. We will use each game as a chance to grow and get better.”
Undoubtedly, the games against Ponchatoula and Mandeville are anticipated by St. Paul’s players, since they represent a chance to redeem last year’s district losses. But each game, no matter the opponent, is its own battle, the Wolves said.
“(Everyone in this district) will gun for us because we are St. Paul’s,” senior defensive lineman Hunter Romero said. “But we’re OK with being an underdog this year.”
The Wolves and their coaches hope that mantra provides a path to a deep playoff run in 2015.
But first things first.
“The goal is always a state championship,” Kenny Sears said. “That’s always in the back of our minds.
“But you have to focus on one game at a time. So the only thing we’re focused on right now is our first game against Karr on September 4.”
Coach: Greg Salter (15-11)
2014: 6-6, 4-3
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to West Monroe in second round)
Looking back: Covington (the No. 25 seed) blanked No. 8 Carencro 34-0 in the bidistrict playoff opener before falling to No. 9 seed West Monroe in the next round.
Moving forward: Devin Brumfield (1,267 rushing yards in his freshman campaign) returns at running back to pace what should be a potent offense.
Ask The Advocate: The Lions historically expect to not only compete but to succeed. A bunch of returning starters from a talented 2014 team should help them do just that.
Projected starters on offense: WR KeJohn Batiste (6-1, 165, So.), WR Alonji Earlycutt (6-3, 185, Jr.), WR Mason Cialona (5-7, 155, So.), WR Tyson Blanks (5-9, 160, Sr.), T Timothy Ciravola (5-11, 250, Sr.), T Kole Parr (6-2, 260, Jr.), G Adam Joiner (6-2, 270, Sr.), G Matthew Sevin (6-0, 225, Sr.) or G Payton Haynes (5-8, 235, Sr.), C Robert Nigro (5-10, 255, Sr.), QB Marquell Hollins (6-0, 160, Sr.), RB Devin Brumfield (5-10, 205, So.).
Projected starters on defense: DE Justin Iko (6-0, 210, Sr.), DE Deray Darensburg (6-0, 205, Sr.), DT Stevante Crandle (6-3, 270, Sr.), DT Cody Turner (5-10, 240, So.) or DT Logan Sharp (6-0, 310, Sr.), LB Matthew Thompson (5-10, 190, Sr.), LB Austin Huffman (5-11, 185), LB Zack Day (6-0, 180, Jr.) or LB Adam Daix (6-0, 190, Sr.), DB Tyler Evans (6-2, 185, Sr.), DB Thomas Jeansonne (6-0, 175, Jr.), DB Quincy Richardson (5-8, 165, Sr.), DB Marcus Williams (6-0, 180, Jr.).
Sept. 4 Franklinton
Sept. 12 Rummel
Sept. 18 Salmen
Sept. 25 at Ponchatoula#
Oct. 1 Slidell#
Oct. 9 at St. Paul’s#
Oct. 16 Fontainebleau#
Oct. 23 at Northshore#
Oct. 30 at Hammond#
Nov. 6 Mandeville#
Coach: Chris Blocker (first year)
2014: 4-7, 2-5
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Byrd in first round)
Looking back: The Bulldogs snuck into the playoffs as the No. 32 seed but made a quick exit after tangling with the top seed on the road.
Moving forward: Experience on the offensive line and at quarterback ought to propel the Fontainebleau offense. The linebacker corps is experienced and should bolster the defense.
Ask The Advocate: Blocker is no stranger to the program, having served as a coordinator in recent years. If they get a couple breaks, the Bulldogs could be in contention for another playoff berth.
Projected starters on offense: WR Kyle Williams (6-2, 205, Sr.), WR Cole Sisung (6-1, 180, Sr.), WR Devin Fury (6-1, 175, Jr.), WR Austin Lambertson (5-11, 165, Sr.), WR Cody Marshall (5-8, 165, Sr.), T Stephen Barrios (6-4, 275, Sr.), T Mason Harding (6-6, 270, Sr.), G Joey Gioia (6-0, 265, Jr.), G Sami Madona (6-1, 225, Jr.), C Tanner Borskey (6-0, 200, Sr.), QB Mason Blocker (6-2, 190, Sr.), RB Brandon Akkawi (5-7, 170, Jr.).
Projected starters on defense: DL Christian Moroney (6-5, 270, Sr.), DL Jack Jablonski (6-0, 200, Jr.), DL Bryan Lunsford (5-11, 180, Sr.), LB Matt Stacey (5-10, 180, Sr.), LB Jacob Olivari (5-10, 181, Sr.), LB Mason Hornsby (6-0, 185, Sr.), LB Nick Stall (6-0, 185, Jr.), DB Grant Wajda (5-11, 185, Sr.), DB Gavin Scholl (5-8, 170, Sr.), DB Alex Broussette (5-8, 160, Jr.), DB Jordan Burke (5-10, 175, So.).
Sept. 4 at Lakeshore
Sept. 11 Bonnabel
Sept. 18 East Jefferson
Sept. 25 at Mandeville#
Oct. 1 at Northshore#
Oct. 9 at Hammond#
Oct. 16 at Covington#
Oct. 23 Ponchatoula#
Oct. 30 at Slidell#
Nov. 6 St. Paul’s#
Coach: Cecil Thomas (1-9 at HHS, 43-23 overall)
2014: 1-9, 0-7
Last playoff appearance: 2001 (lost in the quarterfinals)
Looking back: The Tors could find no traction in district play.
Moving forward: There’s nowhere to go but up.
Ask The Advocate: Hammond will be in its second year under Thomas. If things go well, they can win a few games in district play.
Projected starters on offense: WR Trey Braziel (5-9, 160, Sr.), WR Darrell Dryer (5-6, 130, Jr.), WR Trent Swift (5-11, 160, So.), WR Kenny McCray (5-11, 155, So.), TE Davion May (6-3, 210, Jr.), TE Chris Turner (6-3, 230, Jr.), T Chris Hart (6-0, 280, So.), T Kyle Scafidel (6-2, 235, Sr.), G Rashaad Cooper (5-9, 285, Sr.), G Charles Jackson (5-8, 245, Sr.), C Devin Johnson (5-8, 220, So.), QB Reed Roberts (5-10, 185, Jr.), RB Gary Robertson (5-10, 165, Sr.), RB Isiah Simpson (5-10, 165, So.), FB Josh Slaven (5-11, 215, Sr.), FB Collin Gaydos (5-7, 180, Jr.).
Projected starters on defense: DE Chris Turner (6-3, 230, Jr.), DE Davion May (6-3, 210, Jr.), DT Jarvis Steptoe (6-4, 255, Sr.), DT Tyrik Mitchell (5-10, 220, Fr.), DT Lance Aubert (6-0, 310, Fr.), LB Collin Gaydos (5-7, 180, Jr.), LB Daven LeBourgeois (5-8, 200, Sr.), LB Casterdale Collier (5-9, 165, So.), S Kyric Vernon (5-6, 145, Sr.), S Tyrone Lewis, (5-11, 165, Fr.), S Trey Braziel (5-9, 160, Sr.), CB Isiah Simpson (5-10, 165, So.), CB Rodrick Pool (6-1, 165, Sr.).
Sept. 4 at Ocean Springs (Miss.)
Sept. 11 at Holy Cross
Sept. 18 at Dutchtown
Sept. 25 Slidell#
Oct. 2 St. Paul’s#
Oct. 9 Fontainebleau#
Oct. 16 Northshore#
Oct. 23 Mandeville#
Oct. 30 Covington#
Nov. 6 Ponchatoula#
Coach: Guy Lecompte (76-31)
2014: 9-4, 6-1
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Acadiana in quarterfinals)
Looking back: The Skippers proved again that they belong among the top teams annually in south Louisiana by reaching the state quarterfinals.
Moving forward: Key losses on the offensive line and in the secondary hurt, but a strong passing game and linebacking unit return.
Ask The Advocate: Expect a lot of interchanging of players (especially at WR and RB), which should make Mandeville’s offense exciting. A district championship is not out of the question. LB Jonathan Picone is a verbal commit to Texas Tech.
Projected starters on offense: WR Darren Steele (5-11, 157, So.), WR Connor Lockhart (6-0, 200, Sr.), WR Parker Orgeron (601, 185, Sr.), WR Riley Stephens (6-0, 193, Sr.), WR Aaron Thompson (5-11, 182, Jr.), Guy Lecompte (6-4, 210, Jr.), WR Eddie Vanison (6-1, 146, Sr.), OL Daniel Pereira (5-10, 184, Jr.), OL Tyler Kearns (5-11, 187, Jr.), OL Landon Fowler (5-10, 180, So.), OL Malcolm Johnson (6-1, 201, So.), OL Jacob Talazac (5-11, 210, Jr.), QB Cody Orgeron (6-1, 151, Sr.), RB Taron Jones (5-10, 178, So.), RB Roshad Haynes (5-9, 182, So.), RB Fritz Walker (5-11, 196, Jr.).
Projected starters on defense: DL Maghee McMullen (6-1, 203, Jr.), DL Kyle Snyder (6-3, 195, Sr.), DL Demoni Boyd, (5-11, 241, Jr.), LB Johnathan Picone (6-2, 218, Sr.), LB Nik Durman (6-0, 202, Sr.), LB Alexander Troyer (6-0, 185, Sr.), DB Drake Graham (6-0, 169, Jr.), DB Merrick Nicholas (5-11, 173, Sr.), DB Jacob Hammant (5-10, 177, Jr.), DB Evan Guillory (5-9, 151, Jr.), DB Ian Braun (5-11, 172, Jr.)
Sept. 4 at Holy Cross
Sept. 11 Barbe
Sept. 18 University
Sept. 25 Fontainebleau#
Oct. 1 Ponchatoula#
Oct. 9 at Northshore#
Oct. 16 Slidell#
Oct. 23 at Hammond#
Oct. 30 St. Paul’s#
Nov. 6 at Covington#
Coach: Mike Bourg (39-48)
2014: 3-7, 1-6
Last playoff appearance: 2008 (lost in first round)
Looking back: The Panthers showed a few flashes but couldn’t break .500 in district.
Moving forward: Northshore returns all five OL starters and has a new QB.
Ask The Advocate: Losing last season’s leading WR, RB and QB and an exceptional K isn’t easy. But experience at some key areas may help ease the transition.
Projected starters on offense: TE Seth Collins (6-2, 190, Sr.), TE Blaine Bourg (5-7, 145, Jr.), T Barrett Swan (6-0, 275, Sr.), T Dylan Erickson (6-1, 275, Sr.), G Robert Troyer (6-0, 250, Sr.), G Jake Kennedy (5-11, 270, Sr.), C Josh Moore (6-2, 310, Jr.), QB Walter Harris (5-11, 170, So.), RB Matt Harvey (6-0, 210, Sr.), RB Darrin Smith (5-9, 160, Sr.).
Projected starters on defense: DE Justin Showalter (6-1, 190, Sr.), DE Kemon Smith (6-0, 225, So.), DT Heath Panks (6-1, 225, So.), DT Robert Troyer (6-0, 250, Sr.), LB Jacob Shamalt (5-11, 180, Jr.), LB Prince Lobo (5-10, 185, Sr.), LB Jacob Dowden (5-10, 175, Sr.), DB Hedgemann Carter (5-10, 165, Sr.), DB Vince Cuccia (5-10, 165, Sr.), DB Khalil Fleming (5-10, 155, So.), DB Jeremiah McDonald (6-4, 180, So.).
Sept. 4 at Biloxi (Miss.)
Sept. 11 at Salmen
Sept. 18 Lakeshore
Sept. 25 at St. Paul’s#
Oct. 1 Fontainebleau#
Oct. 9 Mandeville#
Oct. 16 at Hammond#
Oct. 23 Covington#
Oct. 30 at Ponchatoula#
Nov. 6 Slidell#
Ponchatoula Green Wave
Coach: Hank Tierney (257-84 overall)
2014: 11-1, 7-0
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Acadiana in second round)
Looking back: The Green Wave outran everyone in 6-5A, all the way to the district title.
Moving forward: Superb QB Christian Campbell left for Georgia Tech (and 14 other starters are gone), but the cupboard is far from bare. The strength this year figures to be on defense.
Ask The Advocate: This is a team that everyone will be gunning for. Expect Tierney to have his troops ready for battle and in contention for a playoff berth again.
Projected starters on offense: TE Brad Turner (6-0, 195, Sr.), T Cory Patterson (6-2, 320, Jr.), T Bailey Deliberto (6-1, 230, Jr.), G Donavaughn Campbell (6-5, 340, Sr.), G Alan Dragg (6-0, 310, Jr.), C Bradley Reid (5-10, 200, Jr.), QB Jeb Kraft (6-1, 175, Sr.), RB Juan Gross (5-11, 225, Jr.), RB Damon Harris (5-8, 160, Jr.), RB Joquan Johnson (5-9, 165, So.), WR Jakyle Holmes (5-11, 185, Jr.).
Projected starters on defense: DE Cordell Jones (6-0, 225, Sr.), DE Tyrique Gibson (6-2, 220, Jr.), DT Jahaziel Lee (6-3, 250, Sr.), DT Logan Sanders (6-2, 220, Jr.), DT Jack Hay (6-1, 215, Jr.), LB John McGowan (5-11, 205, Sr.), LB Chris Wells (5-10, 175, Jr.), LB Cody Mills (5-11, 195, Sr.), LB Billy Walch (5-9, 182, Jr.), DB Jalen Pines (5-8, 160, Jr.), DB Darriell Wells (5-11, 160, Jr.), DB David Nichols (6-0, 195, Sr.), DB Marcus Young (5-10, 185, Sr.), DB Kobe Jackson (5-9, 155, Sr.).
Sept. 4 at Jewel Sumner
Sept. 11 Acadiana
Sept. 18 Loranger
Sept. 25 Covington#
Oct. 1 at Mandeville#
Oct. 9 at Slidell#
Oct. 16 St. Paul’s#
Oct. 23 at Fontainebleau#
Oct. 30 Northshore#
Nov. 6 at Hammond#
Coach: Larry Favre (11-9)
2014: 6-5, 3-4
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Mandeville in first round)
Looking back: The Tigers continued to show improvement but lost by a touchdown to their district rival in the playoffs.
Moving forward: The Tigers return four starters on offense and five on defense.
Ask The Advocate: Favre (and many others) have been pointing to 2016 as the year they begin making some serious noise in 6-5A. This year’s team should be competitive but probably is missing a few elements.
Projected starters on offense: WR Michael Stallworth (6-2, 175, Sr.), WR Ben Nyatsunga (5-8, 155, Sr.), TE Gabe Stapinski (5-11, 185, Sr.), T Jamie Lee (6-0, 275, Sr.), T Malik Dorsey (5-10, 270, Sr.), G Eric Juneau (6-1, 235, Jr.), G Jamie McKay (5-10, 245, Jr.), C Zachary Malanson (6-2, 200, Jr.), QB Wayne Griffin (6-0, 195, Jr.), RB Mark Navo (5-9, 165, Sr.), RB Evan Barbot (5-8, 170, Jr.).
Projected starters on defense: DL Cristian Santamaria (6-5, 210, Jr.), DL Jalen Williams (6-4, 205, Jr.), DL Kodi Dangerfield (5-8, 200, Jr.), LB Zachary Acosta (6-0, 200, Sr.), LB Nick Pinto (5-10, 155, Jr.), LB Tyler McManus (5-11, 185, Jr.), LB Nick Jackson (5-11, 185, So.), S Matthew LaFerrara (6-0, 185, Sr.), S Rodney Davis (5-8, 165, Jr.), DB Jharyd Dixon (5-10, 170, Sr.), DB Damonte Tobias (5-6, 125, Jr.).
Sept. 4 Destrehan
Sept. 11 McDonogh 35
Sept. 18 Pearl River Central (Miss.)
Sept. 25 at Hammond#
Oct. 1 at Covington#
Oct. 9 Ponchatoula#
Oct. 16 at Mandeville#
Oct. 23 St. Paul’s#
Oct. 30 Fontainebleau#
Nov. 6 Northshore#
St. Paul’s Wolves
Coach: Ken Sears (113-63 overall)
2014: 7-4, 5-2
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Evangel in Division I select first round)
Looking back: St. Paul’s came into 2014 with nine consecutive outright or shared district championships but finished third last year.
Moving forward: The Wolves return a deep and talented team looking to reclaim not only the district championship but also make a deep foray into the playoffs.
Ask The Advocate: The Wolves appear to be one of the deepest teams in the district.
Projected starters on offense: WR Grant Gallaspy (6-5, 195, Sr.), WR TJ Bedford (6-4, 175, Jr.), WR Matt Meyers (5-8, 155, Jr.), WR Cameron Vidal (5-7, 155, So.), WR Chris Coyne (6-0, 170, Sr.), OL Christopher Lowder (6-0, 275, Sr.), OL Brock May (6-2, 210, Sr.), OL Trey Icamina (5-11, 225, Jr.), OL Karson Matherne (5-10, 215, Jr.), OL Andrew Mercante (5-10, 205, Sr.), QB Kenny Sears (6-3, 215, Sr.), RB Brandon Eberts (5-10, 200, Sr.), Francois Elzy (5-8, 200, Sr.), RB Mason Hebert (5-9, 200, Sr.), RB Dominic Davenport (5-8, 150, Sr.).
Projected starters on defense: DL Hunter Romero (6-2, 235, Sr.), DL Hayden Ocman (6-4, 225, Jr.), DL Dylan Davis (5-11, 200, Sr.), DL Nick Knoblock (6-0, 225, Jr.), LB Wyatt Heap (6-1, 210, Sr.), LB Bam Barriero (6-0, 220, Jr.), LB Evan Esquerre (5-11, 200, Jr.), LB Josh Tourelle (6-1, 230, Jr.), DB Deonte Sorapuru (6-1, 180, Sr.), DB Antwann Anderson (5-8, 175, Sr.), DB Brycen Brown (5-9, 150, Sr.), DB Sam Gartman (5-10, 160, Sr.), DB Christian Roberts (5-7, 145, Jr.).
Sept. 4 Karr
Sept. 11 at Jesuit
Sept. 18 Denham Springs
Sept. 25 Northshore#
Oct. 2 at Hammond#
Oct. 9 at Covington#
Oct. 16 at Ponchatoula#
Oct. 23 at Slidell#
Oct. 30 Mandeville#
Nov. 6 at Fontainebleau#
# — district game