It was an active, sometimes emotional offseason for Livonia High football. But the start of a new season Friday night at Live Oak brought familiar on-field results.
Buoyed by quarterback CeeJay Powell and running back Malcolm Dedrick, the Wildcats rode an explosive offense that produced five touchdowns of 20-plus yards to a 41-19 win in the season opener.
Dedrick, a starting linebacker, rushed for 220 yards and four scores on 19 carries after subbing for injured starter Barrick Slaughter. Powell had 118 yard on 19 carries, including a 53-yard score.
“Between Malcolm and CeeJay, Wow,” new Livonia coach Guy Mistretta said. “To me, that was the difference. (Live Oak) just had nothing to match that explosiveness.”
Last seen suffering an overtime loss to Union Parish in what was Livonia’s first state championship game, the Wildcats opened their first fall under Mistretta happy to put behind an offseason that included the departure of coach David Brewerton for Zachary and the forfeiture of seven victories in 2013, as well as the Class 3A runner-up trophy because of an ineligible player.
The young Wildcats took the field Friday with only six senior starters but welcomed anwhile, a wave of newcomers to the program this fall after Pointe Coupee Central shut down.
“It’s always nice to start the season, but this year in particular,” Mistretta said.
Live Oak coach Tut Musemeche saw Livonia’s big-play ability firsthand in an opening loss against the Wildcats last season, and he said the plan this year was to force long drives that required driving the length of the field. It worked early.
A 13-play, 72-yard march led Livonia’s opening possession to the 1-yard line, but Live Oak stoned the Wildcats on three straight running plays. A botched field goal try on fourth down kept the game scoreless.
On the next Livonia possession, however, after Slaughter left with a leg injury, Dedrick scored on a 20-yard run — his first carry — to make it 6-0 with 11:19 to play in the second quarter. Dedrick later added TD runs of 41, 55 and 23 yards.
“We thought if we made them snap it nine or 10 times in a drive, they couldn’t outscore us,” Musemeche said. “But they live on the big play and have a couple of big-play guys.”
After the Wildcats had gone ahead 12-0 on Dedrick’s first two touchdowns, Live Oak briefly got back within striking distance thanks to a big play of its own.
Running back Will Higginbotham, who finished with 107 yards on 14 carries, scampered 65 yards to make it 12-6 with just under six minutes to go in the first half.
But after a failed onside kick, Dedrick went 55 yards to bring it back to a two-touchdown game.
“I knew I was going to get carries on offense, but I didn’t know it would be that many,” Dedrick said. “I’m thankful for the opportunity.”
Now the Wildcats can focus on duplicating last season’s historic run.
“Coach has told us what’s in the past is in the past and we have to focus on the future,” Dedrick said.