Southern Lab has been up and down this season, says third-year coach Darrell Asberry

The Class 1A/Division IV Kittens were bolstered by a preseason jamboree win over defending Class 2A champion Amite, but a 21-14 loss to Class 3A Madison Prep in Week 2 introduced a dose of reality. Two weeks later, Southern Lab dropped a close contest to Central and the next week fell hard to Class 5A Scotlandville, 63-18.

Now the Kittens (5-3, 2-0) are riding a four-game winning streak as they prepare to visit Slaughter Community Charter for a District 6-1A game to close the regular season at 7 p.m. Friday. Despite all this, SLHS is ranked fourth in the latest Louisiana Sports Writers Association's Class 1A poll and are considered one of the most dangerous teams in Division IV as the playoffs loom.

The defending league champs lost 16 seniors from last year, including prime-time players such as offensive lineman Kardell Thomas (LSU), linebacker Tyler Guidry (UL) and running backs Tyrion Davis-Price (LSU) and Charvis Thornton (Louisiana Tech) — all currently competing at the college level.

Filling in those gaps are star players such as linebacker and Arizona commitment Jabar Triplett and wide receiver Reginald Johnson, who is committed to Houston. The Kittens also depend heavily on offensive linemen Nick Smith, Derrick Wright and Kendrick Coleman to open holes with sophomore quarterback Angelo Izzard directing the offense.

Izzard saw considerable playing time last year as a freshman and secured the starting role by demonstrating calmness under pressure and an ability to run play-action and throw the ball downfield to favorite targets Johnson and Herman Brister, occasionally Daelon Hardy lining up in the slot.

Running backs Latrell Pruitt and Hardy provide what Asberry calls “a great one-two punch for our offense” with a physical, downhill style of play.

“The difference for us between last year and this year is that we may not have as much overall talent, but our kids play very well together,” Asberry said. “The attitude of our team is very positive, and we’re putting in extra work. We tell them the game is won Monday through Thursday and they understand discipline, loyalty and commitment, and the idea that to get to where you’ve never been, you have to do things you’ve never done.”

Meanwhile, the Knights (2-6, 1-2) did not play last week and hope to reach the 1A playoffs regardless of the outcome Friday night. 

Coach Jacob Goudeau said the Knights are hovering on the playoff bubble.

“We think we can squeeze in whether we win or not, but we’re going to do everything we can to add to our power points. Right now we’re at 23, and they take the top 24.”

Goudeau said the season went “about as expected” after the Kittens lost their share of senior talent last year. Sophomore quarterback Justin Carmena has been leading the offense, while Ketron Jones has been a key utility player at both running back and on the defensive side at linebacker and defensive end.

“We’ve been playing a lot of inexperienced guys. I consider this a rebuilding year, and we knew it was going to be a grind,” Goudeau said. “We have a lot of underclassmen coming back. We just need to get stronger and faster, and we’ll spend the off-season doing that. I think the future is bright.”