McDonogh 35 coach Wayne Reese didn’t mince words when describing the 2014 season.
“It might have been the worst year for me since I’ve been here at McDonogh 35,” he said.
But Reese’s disappointment with last season isn’t rooted in a lack of talent or the Roneagles’ inability to compete against some of the upper-echelon teams on their schedule.
It was just the opposite.
McDonogh 35 finished 2-8, but five of those defeats came by 10 points or fewer, including a late-season 23-13 loss to Landry-Walker and a 21-14 loss at No. 1 seed Plaquemine in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.
“We had plenty of talent on our team last year, but we were a very young team, and we just weren’t ready to do what it takes to close out those close games against good teams,” Reese said. “We played against some really good teams last year and our guys competed, but those teams knew what it took mentally to do the little things that win games.”
Experience breeds mental toughness and, fortunately for the Roneagles, they are one of the few teams in District 9-4A that won’t be dealing with major change in their core leadership. That alone could make McDonogh 35 a frontrunner for the district title.
Warren Easton lost LSU signee Tyron Johnson and Louisiana Gatorade High School Player of the Year Deshawn Capers-Smith. Karr lost coach Nathaniel Jones and stalwart defenders Tyrin Ferguson and Isaiah Washington. Belle Chasse lost quarterback (and Tulane signee) Andrew Hicks, and Riverdale lost LSU signee Donte Jackson, a star cornerback.
Oh, and Landry-Walker has moved up to District 8-5A.
“There’s no doubt our district is going to look completely different this year with so many guys gone,” McDongh 35 running back Darius May said. “But we know that all of these teams still have a lot of talented guys, and we have to take care of what we need to do before we start looking ahead at a district title or anything like that.”
McDonogh 35’s potential growth into a district contender will begin and end with a defense that allowed 23 points or fewer in five of the final seven games. The group returns some of the most highly recruited players in the district.
It starts with the dominant defensive line duo of Mastephon Taylor and Sci Martin, which frees up a linebacking and secondary group that includes LSU commit Clifford Chattman, Joe Foucha, Terrell Debose and Brad Stewart.
“Our defense is going to be really good. We aren’t worried about those guys at all,” Reese said. “They’ve all been together since they were eighth- and ninth-graders, so they understand how to play together.”
On offense, the Roneagles return a 1,200-yard rusher in May — who has committed to Tulane — and quarterback Sidney Wilson, who passed for more than 1,400 yards last year.
McDonogh 35 will try to make up for losses along its offensive line and of its top pass-catcher (Tulane signee Darius Williams), but the Roneagles believe May and Wilson’s growth will help the offense score enough points to win those close games in which they struggled last season.
“Sidney and I have talked all summer about stepping up as leaders for our guys,” May said. “Losing those close games at the end of the season, especially against Plaquemine, was really tough, but it showed us that we can compete against some of the best teams in the state.
“If we do what we’re supposed to do, we feel like we can play with anybody.”
Belle Chasse Cardinals
Coach: Stephen Meyers (4-7)
2014: 4-7, 0-4
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Benton in first round)
Looking back: Meyers will have another adjustment period in his second year at Belle Chasse after the departure of his top player on offense. Tulane signee Andrew Hicks ran for more than 1,500 yards and 21 touchdowns last season.
Moving forward: The Cardinals will be relying on more of a triple option-based running attack, which will be headed by new QB A.J. Paige. They will mostly lean on a defensive unit led by LB Kazmi Antoine, a Tulane commitment.
Ask The Advocate: Belle Chasse should be able to make some strides this year.
Projected starters on offense: TE Brett Dingler (6-1, 205, Jr.), WR Tyler Miller (6-2, 195, Sr.), T Zach Mariana (5-8, 280, Sr.), G Michael Mason (5-10, 225, Sr.), C Austin Hotard (5-10, 275, So.), G Davis Solis (5-8, 240, So.), T Kameron Devalount (6-1, 275, Jr.), QB A.J. Paige (5-10, 175, Sr.), RB Caylin Parker (6-0, 205, Sr.), RB Trey Green (5-9, 175, Fr.), RB Ahmad Antoine (5-9, 170, Fr.).
Projected starters on defense: DT Cedric Miller (6-1, 340, Sr.), DE Kavon Wiley (6-1, 250, Sr.), DE Connor Whitney (5-10, 240, So.), LB Dell Turlich (6-2, 190, Sr.), LB Kazmi Antoine (6-0, 200, Sr.), LB Brandon Navarre (5-10, 180, Sr.), LB Trey Navarre (5-10, 180, Sr.), DB Jackson Sanders (5-10, 185, Jr.), DB Adrian Greenwood (5-11, 185, Sr.), DB Frederick Smith (5-9, 165, Sr.), DB Justin Phillips (6-1, 175, Sr.).
Sept. 4 at South Plaquemines
Sept. 11 at East Jefferson
Sept. 18 Sci Academy
Sept. 25 Warren Easton#
Oct. 2 at Lake Area#
Oct. 8 at McDonogh 35#
Oct. 16 Shaw
Oct. 23 at Karr#
Oct. 29 Riverdale#
Nov. 6 Carver#
Ben Franklin Falcons
Coach: Wally Scott (fifth year)
Looking back: The Falcons struggled much of last season with a young team.
Moving forward: They return two of their major playmakers in WR Donte Scott and QB Jack Heyl and hope the team can grow.
Ask The Advocate: With a lack of depth along the lines, it will likely be another tough season for the Falcons, who won’t compete for district honors.
Projected starters on offense: WR Donte Scott, WR Jose Gonzalez, T Ethan Nicklous, G Jersen Sanchez, C Crawford Tyler, G Max Rick, T Demond Fortenberry, QB Jack Heyl, RB Matthew Winfield, RB Cameron Nicholas, RB Chase Mathis.
Projected starters on defense: LB Donte Scott, LB Jack Heyl, LB Jersen Sanchez, DB Matthew Winfield, DB Vincent Durham, DB Jose Gonzalez, DB Val Browning.
Sept. 4 at Ridgewood
Sept. 11 at Country Day
Sept. 18 Haynes
Sept. 25 at Houma Christian
Oct. 2 Thomas Jefferson
Oct. 8 at Pearl River
Oct. 16 Ecole Classique
Oct. 22 at Grace King
Oct. 30 Fisher
Nov. 6 Cohen
Coach: Byron Addison (fifth year)
2014: 4-6, 3-4 District 8-2A
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to St. James in Class 2A first round)
Looking back: Carver made it to the Class 2A playoffs last year, but they jump up two classes this season.
Moving forward: The Rams return primary offensive weapons D’Quintez Wilson and Rodney Major and hope they can make some noise.
Ask The Advocate: Much like Riverdale and Lake Area, there will be an adjustment period for Carver that will result in some struggles.
Projected starters on offense: TE D’Quintez Wilson, WR Gary Young, T Ronald Evans, G Nathan Wilcox, C Earl Veal, G Emmit Webber, T Ishmail Harris, QB Quenton Matthews, RB Rodney Major, RB Dwan Quin.
Projected starters on defense: DE Alvin Brown, DE James Jones, DT Antonio Haynes, LB Lionel Williams, LB Easton Pania, LB Dwan Quin, LB Stanley Carruth, DB Tyrone Barrow, DB D’Quintez Wilson, DB Phillip Joseph.
Sept. 4 at Clark
Sept. 11 at South Lafourche
Sept. 17 at Helen Cox
Sept. 24 at Riverdale#
Oct. 2 McDonogh 35#
Oct. 9 at St. Thomas Aquinas
Oct. 16 Karr#
Oct. 24 Warren Easton#
Oct. 30 at Lake Area#
Nov. 6 at Belle Chasse#
Coach: Brice Brown (first year)
2014: 8-4, 3-1
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Neville in quarterfinals)
Looking back: Last year, the Cougars were dealing with their own exodus of a prolific senior class but still managed to win their fair share of big games.
Moving forward: With new coach Brown, the Cougars will attempt to build on what they achieved last year.
Ask The Advocate: Aldon Clark is heading into his second season at QB, and many are expecting big things from him. The season finale against McDonogh 35 may double as the district championship game.
Projected starters on offense: WR Kenneth Simmons (5-7, 142, Sr.), WR Rayce McMath (6-3, 209, Jr.), WR Romad Jefferson (5-8, 155, Jr.), WR Diamante Woolridge (5-8, 145, Sr.), T Anthony Lalone (6-1, 214, Jr.), G Albert Berniard (6-1, 245, Sr.), C Lemar Johns (5-9, 278, Sr.), G Chance Joe (5-9, 278, Sr.), T Titus Jones (6-2, 204, So.), QB Aldon Clark (6-3, 203, Jr.), RB Santee Marshall (5-9, 160, Jr.).
Projected starters on defense: DE Devin Edinburgh (6-4, 207, Sr.), DE Tyler Casby (6-1, 225, Jr.), DT Demmond Harris (6-2, 268, Jr.), DT Aaron Kent (6-1, 259, Sr.), LB Darnell Bridge (6-0, 202, Jr.), LB Marquise Montgomery (5-9, 187, Jr.), LB Louis Johnson (6-0, 178, Jr.), LB Rashad Mosley (5-9, 174, Sr.), DB Leonte Harris (5-8, 168, Sr.), DB Sam Marcadel (6-3, 179, Sr.), DB Kaycee Ntkogu (6-0, 168, Sr.).
Sept. 4 at St. Paul’s
Sept. 11 at Landry-Walker
Sept. 18 at Brother Martin
Oct. 1 Riverdale#
Oct. 8 Lake Area#
Oct. 16 at Carver#
Oct. 23 Belle Chasse#
Oct. 30 at Warren Easton#
Nov. 5 at McDonogh 35#
Lake Area Leopards
Coach: Derrick Lewis (12-14)
Last playoff appearance: n/a
Looking back: Lake Area had an up-and-down season last year, but one of its bright spots was QB Ricky Jones, who returns after accumulating more than 3,000 yards of offense and 26 touchdowns.
Moving forward: The Leopards are taking on a district schedule for the first time in school history.
Ask The Advocate: Lewis has done a good job building the program, and the Leopards should have a few good moments this year, but they are entering one of the state’s better districts. It will take some time for them to adjust to the new level of play.
Projected starters on offense: TE Austin Herring (6-4, 205, Jr.), WR Cyron Sutton (5-10, 165, Sr.), T Michael Knight (6-3, 270, Sr.), G Sovohn Henderson (6-1, 310, Sr.), C George Collins (6-2, 265, Sr.), G Evan Holmes (6-1, 260, Jr.), T Daniel Stevenson (6-5, 270, Sr.), QB Ricky Jones (5-10, 170, Sr.), RB Donte Fournier (5-9, 204, Sr.), RB Antoine Adams (5-6, 162, So.), RB John Mosely (5-10, 192, Fr.).
Projected starters on defense: DE Jared Brown (6-1, 198, Jr.), DE Ronnell Miller (6-3, 215, So.), DT Justin Kelly (5-10, 285, Jr.), DT Carterell Sutton (6-1, 290, Sr.), LB Anthony Parker (5-10, 250, Jr.), LB Brian Keith-Henry (6-1, 200, So.), DB Demante Lewis (6-1, 170, Jr.), DB T.J. Jackson (5-10, 162, Jr.), DB Damium Swearington (6-0, 182, Jr.), DB R.J. Jones (5-9, 160, So.).
Sept. 3 at De La Salle
Sept. 11 Clark
Sept. at Navasota (Texas)
Sept. 24 at McDonogh 35#
Oct. 2 Belle Chasse#
Oct. 8 at Karr#
Oct. 16 Riverdale#
Oct. 23 Episcopal
Oct. 30 Carver#
Nov. 7 at Warren Easton#
McDonogh 35 Roneagles
Coach: Wayne Reese (14th year)
2014: 2-8, 1-3
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Plaquemine in first round)
Looking back: The Roneagles were a young team that struggled with a tough schedule.
Moving forward: With many of their playmakers back, 35 looks to jump up the standings in District 9-4A.
Ask The Advocate: The Roneagles’ stout defense — led by LSU commitment Clifford Chattman and Sci Martin — and an improved offensive attack yields a jump to the top of the standings and a district title.
Projected starters on offense: WR Lawrence Keys (5-10, 170, So.), WR Toreano Miner (6-0, 170, Sr.), WR Jared Miles (6-0, 195, So.), OL David McKinley (5-11, 260, Sr.), OL Richard Simon, 6-0, 230, Sr.), OL Jamal Crawford (6-4, 320, Sr.), OL Ja’Darius Collins (5-11, 265, So.), OL Trey Sanders (6-0, 320, Jr.), RB Dajun Jenkins (6-0, 200, So.), RB Darius May (6-1, 190, Sr.), QB Sidney Wilson (5-11, 190, Sr.).
Projected starters on defense: DL Eric Smith (6-0, 205, Sr.), DL Ortega Robin (5-11, 235, Jr.), DL Stephon Taylor (6-6, 290, Jr.), DL Sci Martin (6-4, 220, Sr.), LB Thomas Nash (6-0, 210, Sr.), LB Andre Smith (5-11, 200, Jr.), DB Clifford Chattman (6-5, 185, Sr.), DB Brad Stewart (6-1, 200, Jr.), DB Tory Williams (5-8, 160, Sr.), DB Kevin Berthey (6-0, 170, Jr.), DB Joe Foucha (5-11, 195, So.).
Sept. 5 at St. Augustine
Sept. 11 at Slidell
Sept. 17 Higgins
Sept. 24 Lake Area#
Oct. 2 at Carver#
Oct. 8 Belle Chasse#
Oct. 17 at Warren Easton#
Oct. 23 at Riverdale#
Oct. 30 at Amite
Nov. 5 Karr#
Coach: Nick Brumfield (first year)
2014: 5-5, 2-3 in District 8-4A
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Neville in first round)
Looking back: Riverdale had LSU signee Donte Jackson, one of the best prospects in school history, putting up massive numbers last year, but the team’s defensive struggles came back to bite it.
Moving forward: With maybe the school’s most heralded senior class gone and a new coach, Riverdale looks to find a new identity in District 9-4A.
Ask The Advocate: With a tough schedule and plenty of new faces, Riverdale may struggle a bit.
Projected starters on offense: WR Monterio Ursin (Sr.), WR Ryan Taylor (Sr.), WR David Compton (So.), WR Frank Rivera (So.), OL Justin Frost (Sr.), OL Edwin Sanabria (Jr.), OL Omar Elsaadawy (So.), OL Brandon Silva (So.), OL Caleb Clark (Sr.), RB Marcelleno Scott (Jr.), QB Christian Smith (Sr.).
Projected starters on defense: DL Tim Beasley (Sr.), DL Mario Jackson (Sr.), DL De’Andre Pittman (So.), OLB/DL William Bee (So.), LB Charles Burbank (Sr.), LB Danny Cola (Sr.), LB Josh Clark (Jr.), DB Brandon Fresh (Sr.), DB Dorian Joseph (Jr.), DB Ki’Juan McGee (Jr.), DB Carlos Alexander (Jr.).
Sept. 4 Cox
Sept. 11 at Newman
Sept. 18 at Grace King
Sept. 24 Carver#
Oct. 1 at Karr#
Oct. 8 Warren Easton#
Oct. 16 at Lake Area#
Oct. 23 McDonogh 35#
Oct. 29 at Belle Chasse#
Nov. 6 at Loranger
Warren Easton Eagles
Coach: Tony Hull (eighth year)
2014: 12-3, 3-1
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Neville in state championship game)
Looking back: Last year, Easton had one of the most magical seasons in school history, making it all the way to the state championship game for the first time in more than 50 years before falling to Neville.
Moving forward: With so many key players gone, Hull looks to pick up the pieces and continue what the Eagles started last season.
Ask The Advocate: Easton still has plenty of talent, but it will take time for some players to adjust to new roles. Expect them to come on strong at the end of the year.
Projected starters on offense: WR Yoheinz Tyler (6-5, 187, So.), WR Clyde Chriss (6-2, 175, Sr.), T Sterling Brown (6-3, 330, Jr.), G Trenton Gary (6-3, 280, Jr.), C Demetrius Boulieu (6-1, 270, Sr.), G Tony Branch (6-2, 320, Sr.), T Anthony Phillips (6-2, 280, Sr.), QB Tyriek Starks (Jr.), RB Joseph Boyd (Sr.), WR Nick Bartholomew (5-11, 170, Jr.), WR Terrance Sylvester (5-11, 180, Sr.).
Projected starters on defense: DE Jonathan Meriano (6-3, 285, Jr.), DE Tyron Nash (6-1, 235, Jr.), DT Myles Vigne (6-3, 305, Sr.), DT Larry Hooker (5-10, 270, Sr.), LB Pernell Jefferson (6-3, 235, Sr.), LB Markell Roby (6-1, 189, Jr.), LB Raynell Beason (5-10, 190, Jr.), DB Damion Tate (5-10, 175, Sr.), DB Chris Fortin (6-0, 197, Jr.), DB Charven Morris (5-10, 190, Sr.), DB Michael Moore (5-11, 187, Sr.).
Sept. 3 at Jesuit
Sept. 12 at Evangel Christian
Sept. 18 at McMain
Sept. 25 at Belle Chasse#
Oct. 1 Sophie B. Wright
Oct. 8 Riverdale#
Oct. 17 McDonogh 35#
Oct. 24 Carver#
Oct. 30 Karr#
Nov. 7 Lake Area#
# — district game