Crowley High football coach Josh Fontenot didn’t expect defensive end Jardell Delco to have to start at fullback and eventually carry the ball.
But he was prepared for it.
When an injury to starting center Christian Breaux in a season-opening 62-27 win over Wossman sidelined the junior for three games, Fontenot shifted left tackle Nick Deville to center, right tackle Jared Stelly to left tackle and moved Matt Mire into the starting unit.
“One injury affected three positions,” Fontenot said.
Unlike the majority of its brethren in Class 4A, Crowley doesn’t have the luxury this season of relying on starting lineups exclusively for offense and defense. Instead, the Gents have been resourceful in compensating for an unusually small senior class, relying on as many as five to six players to either start or play the bulk of games both ways.
“You’ve got to be a factor on both sides of the ball,” Delco said. “It’s kind of hard, but if you want to win, you’ve got to step up and make plays.”
Crowley thrived in more of a traditional fashion a year ago with greater depth, with an 8-4 record and Class 4A state regionals appearance against eventual state runner-up Karr.
Despite the Gents having to use 17 to 18 starters to cover their 22 starting positions, they’ve adapted because of the long-range planning and organization of their coaching staff and a strong desire in the offseason to make it all work.
The result has been another successful start for Crowley (4-1, 2-0) which takes the District 4-4A lead into Friday’s league matchup Friday at Washington-Marion (1-4, 1-1).
“We would like to have two deep both ways, but we don’t,” said Fontenot, 14-13 in his third season. “This is who were are this year. These are the guys we think are capable of playing. We’re still learning and working with it.”
Outside of its group of six seniors, Crowley reflects a healthy program representative of its classification with well-balanced classes of 20-plus players throughout that bolster the roster size to approximately 80 players.
However, a closer examination beneath the small layer of seniors was a team affected by inexperience at different positions, thus making the choice an easy one to use two-way players.
“It’s an honor for my coaches to trust me to go both ways and play special teams,” said junior John Marceaux, a starter at tight end and safety. “I know the team needs me, and I’m willing to step up and do what I have to for us to win.”
Fontenot split up his practices in the spring into days that were dedicated for the offense and defense. It was common for every player to have to learn a position at practice on each side of the ball for worst case scenarios.
Fontenot didn’t overtax his team during August’s unrelenting heat and worked his team briskly during the season with only one full-padded practice Tuesday before tapering off.
“We worked really hard in the summer,” Delco said. “We didn’t just want to be a one-year team that did good and made the second round. We wanted more to win a district championship, go to the playoffs and hopefully get to the dome.”
Marceaux and Delco form the nucleus of Crowley’s two-way players, along with Mikel Hebert, who starts at cornerback and plays wide receiver. Wide out Terrell Thomas leads the team with 19 catches for 281 yards and three touchdowns and is a starter at free safety.
The Gents also count on Jacq’co Price at wide receiver and corner. Leading rusher Ty’Von Griffin (83-505, 7 touchdowns) will also play linebacker, while Breaux and Deville will rotate with Delco on the defensive line.
“The ones that stuck it out are some of the best players on the team right now,” Marceaux said. “We know who really wants it. Those who stayed made the right decision, because we’re a good football team and we’re going to go far.”