Chandler Whitfield caught a 10-pound catfish that broke his bamboo fishing pole when he was 8 years old. At 5-foot-9, 160 pounds, Whitfield is small for a wide receiver, especially on the Class 5A level.
These two seemingly unrelated points say plenty about the Zachary senior receiver.
Whitfield understands the big fish in a little pond and little fish in a big pond analogy. It is also why making the catch of the day for the Broncos is something Whitfield prides himself in.
In a quarterfinal win over third-seeded Acadiana last Friday he did it again. Whitfield dove, needing full extension to split multiple defenders in order to haul in a 49-yard pass from Keilon Brown that set up a touchdown.
Whitfield cannot predict the future. But when the sixth-seeded Broncos (11-2) travel to play No. 2 Destrehan (12-1) in a 5A semifinal set for 7 p.m. Friday, he will be that little guy looking to make big plays.
“The playoffs are different,” Whitfield said. “Games like this are what you practice for and work for. We’re still out there working every day. We believe in each other, and there are things left for us to do.”
Whitfield’s ascent to the top of Zachary’s receiver corps is not a surprise. He made his big move last year as the Broncos won their second 5A title in three years. That experience also prepared Whitfield for a leadership role ZHS coach David Brewerton says he fulfills in a special way.
“You always ask your seniors to take on more of a leadership role. Sometimes it is hard to motivate a guy with athletic talent to take that on in terms of work ethic and leadership because things have always come so easily to them,” Brewerton said. “As coaches, we talk all the time about Chandler being a guy who has embraced the grind. His work ethic has been great.
“It is difficult for me to think about a time when I have had to complain about his work ethic or anything. He enjoys himself whenever he is at practice. He always has something to say. You know Chandler is there. You hear a lot of really bad jokes.”
What Whitfield does against Zachary's opponents is serious business. He has 50 catches for 1,143 yards and 12 touchdowns. Whitfield also is a dangerous kick returner. That speed came in handy as he helped Zachary win a state track title.
“I never like to be the same,” Whitfield said. “I want to be better every year. I knew my speed could separate me from other players. I worked on that.”
Destrehan coach Steve Robicheaux paid Whitfield a huge compliment by comparing him to Damaris Johnson, the star receiver on the Wildcats’ unbeaten team that won the 5A title in 2007 and then went on to Tulsa and stints in the NFL and CFL.
Whitfield is a Nicholls State commitment. His improved ACT score could attract more suitors. Whitfield’s focus is on suiting up Friday night for the Broncos as they seek a third 5A title-game berth in four years.
“I am like the energizer bunny at practice,” Whitfield said. “I love being on the football field. I want to make every minute out there count. I really get hyped at every game and all the places we play. This one is going to be great. … I can’t wait.”