Tony Courville admits he no longer has the crutch he had during his first two years as the Carencro football team’s coach.
If there was one overarching theme for the Bears offense over the past two years — aside from switching from the spread to the veer last year under former Acadiana offensive coordinator Gavin Peters — it was youth on the offensive line. The inexperience was specifically problematic in 2017, when Carencro went 3-8 with three freshmen and a sophomore on the line.
As tough as the 2017 season was for Carencro, the year of experience paid dividends for those first-year players, and it translated to two more wins in 2018. Now, however, three of Courville’s linemen, Ty Mayfield, John Miller and Trent Jolivette, are juniors, and one is a senior, Zavione Willis.
So if there was a year for the Bears to make a jump offensively, despite having to replace a quarterback, two tailbacks and a tight end, it would be this one.
“They’ve been playing for two years, and they’ve gotten to know each other,” Courville said. "They understand what we expect out them — the standard that we want them to play at. That’s gotten better.”
That’s especially true after the Bears went through spring practice this year, including an intrasquad scrimmage, after not playing one last year. Courville decided against it last year because they were waiting to hire Peters, who replaced Kevin Faulk after he left to become the director of player development at LSU.
Courville has been pleased with his team’s productivity during the offseason, and it started well before the spring.
“Just in general, our offseason, from January until we started spring ball, was probably one of the best I’ve been associated with,” Courville said. “And I’ve been doing it going on 32 years.”
“Our goals for the spring: We were going to find out who can block, who can tackle, who is going to give us relentless effort and who has ‘contact courage.’ Contact courage is just a fancy word (for) who is going to go hit somebody, who’s not going to back down from physical contact. So those four things were our goals.”
Courville said his team’s slogan for the year is, "Fourth-and-goal, 24/7, 365," which is a way of emphasizing the competitiveness and sense of urgency he wants daily from his players.
“A lot of programs do this, but we divided the team up into groups," Courville said. "The competition was in menial things — if we got to class on time, if we were dressed the proper way. Just little things to teach them accountability, and they did a great job. About every two weeks, on a Friday, we would do some actual physical competitions, and it went great.
“So the kids were competing on a daily basis. We tried to challenge to improve every day, and today, we were going to challenge them to get better than they were the day before. They responded, and I think that’s a tribute to the kids. My son, coach Michael Courville, Gavin Peters and Junavion Sias were the guys in the weight room with them really pushing them, and they did a great job.”
Carencro is also changing defenses. Former defensive coordinator Larry Breaux is retiring, and, for the time being, Courville is running the defense. The Bears have moved from a 3-4 to a 4-3.
Despite youth at linebacker, the Bears should be solid up front and at defensive back. The secondary is especially talented with free safety Rashaad Onezime, the district’s MVP, and corner Bailey Despanie.
Something else Carencro has that many teams do not: an asset on special teams in senior kicker/punter Jaron Royer.
“He’s been a valuable weapon for us, flipping fields and stuff like that,” Courville said. “Hopefully his leg is going to be stronger where he can help us a little bit more on kickoffs where he put them in the end zone and really pin people back for us.”