It’s hard to imagine any team in District 5-5A overlooking perennial power Catholic High, but that doesn’t mean the Bears are the most important game on everyone’s schedule.
With Ascension Parish district members St. Amant, Dutchtown and East Ascension emphasizing local rivalries, at times Catholic can get lost in the shuffle, if not on the field. Regardless, Catholic has added variables such as good coaching along with a reliably stocked cupboard of talent, and its formula has generated three consecutive district titles.
East Ascension and coach Paul Bourgeois have taken their lumps at the hands of Catholic in recent seasons.
“Because we’re in Ascension Parish, and there’s the hype that comes with crosstown rivalries, the problem is, when you meet someone else in the middle of that, there’s not the same excitement,” Bourgeois said. “The talent and the team (of Catholic) is so much better that it’s not a good combination.”
Catholic ended last season with a 25-23 loss to Brother Martin in the Division I select quarterfinals when running back Derrius Guice was stopped short of the goal line as time ran out. Guice is now at LSU, but quarterback Ian Brian and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire return to lead the Bears offense.
“We have a good blend of experience and younger talent,” coach Dale Weiner said. “Obviously we lost some big guns from last year and some guys that meant a lot to our program, but we always feel like this is an opportunity for the next guy to step up.”
Defensively, new coordinator Matt Burmaster has shifted Catholic from a 3-3 to a 4-3 front. Weiner said his Bears have been quick studies, and he rates returning linebackers Brandon Fairbanks and Chase Priest among the unit’s leaders.
Three-year starting cornerback Connor Bowen and nose guard K.J. Wilson also figure to play prominent roles.
Also a factor: Catholic will play a demanding schedule before it reaches district play. The Bears face five nondistrict playoff teams, including two that reached the Division I select quarterfinals (St. Thomas More and Teurlings Catholic), one that played for the Division II select title (Parkview Baptist) and another that made it to the Class 5A semifinals (Zachary).
“We know it’s going to be a struggle, and we have to be ready,” Weiner said. “We’ve talked about that in practice. We’re going to face some great folks, and we have to be willing to push ourselves in practice.”
A difficult nondistrict schedule is one area where East Ascension matches up well with Catholic.
The Spartans, who return quarterback Kyran Irvin and running back Joshua Bates to their potent offense, also will face five playoff teams from last season. Denham Springs and Thibodaux lost in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs to eventual semifinalists Zachary and Scotlandville. East Ascension will play all four teams as well as Division II select semifinalist St. Charles.
“I know there’s going to be someone with a tougher schedule, but we’ve got to be near the top in the state,” said Bourgeois, who pointed to the power point system as a scheduling concern. “Nobody wants to play the game they’re going to lose. I think now people feel like the 10 points are more important than playing a good team, and them getting the points, which it is. But it’s hard making schedules at the top end, so you end up with schedules like we have.”
If East Ascension is to navigate its schedule, it will need top defenders like linebacker Josh Dennis and tackle Jayvin Johnson to step up.
Defense wasn’t a problem last season for Dutchtown, which had trouble winning close games. The result was a 4-7 record — the Griffins’ most losses since they went 8-5 in 2007. The losing record seems to have caught the team’s attention, coach Benny Saia said.
“I really like this team so far. I like the attitude. I like the work ethic,” he said. “I don’t hear all the bragging or any of the stuff from last year that led to a losing season. I think that’s a good start.”
All-district defensive backs Coney Durr and Rickey Thomas were among the returning leaders who remind the Griffins of where they want to go.
“We bring that mindset into practice every day,” Durr said. “We’re trying to do everything better than last year.”
Playing well against parish rivals would go a long way toward accomplishing that goal. It was something St. Amant did last season when it defeated East Ascension and Dutchtown in the same season for the first time.
St. Amant lost eight starters on defense and will have a new starting quarterback in Hayden Mallory. But waiting to pick up the slack is a junior class of more than 50 players.
“We’ve got a bunch of juniors on both sides of the ball playing,” coach David Oliver said. “It’s a big junior class, and they’ve been very successful. The key is if they can turn that into success on Friday nights.
“We’ve got the basics of a good football team. Most of these guys played on Wednesdays last year, and now they have to go out and prove it on Friday nights.”
Coach: Elliott Wilkins (3-7)
2014: 3-7, 2-4 in District 4-5A
Last playoff appearance: 2011 (lost to Salmen in first round in Class 4A)
Looking back: In District 4-5A, Broadmoor played hard despite its losing record and highlighted its season with wins over Central and Walker.
Moving forward: Fielding one of the smallest squads in Class 5A, Broadmoor has its work cut out for it in terms of sheer squad size against district foes.
Ask The Advocate: Coaching and determination never seem to be lacking at Broadmoor, but the Bucs will need luck with injuries and bounces of the football to make the playoffs.
Projected starters on offense (veer): *G Jamil Abdul-Aziz (6-1, 271, Sr.), *T Derrick Alexander (6-5, 240, Sr.), C Chris Cain (5-11, 240, Sr.), G Brian Selmon (5-10, 185, Jr.), T Kobe Daniels (6-1, 275, Sr.), *RB Henry Williams (5-5, 192, Sr.), RB Jaelin Jackson (5-9, 170, Jr.), QB Tyler Woods (5-10, 180, Sr.), SE Davonte Palmer (5-11, 180, So.).
Projected starters on defense (multiple): *DE Derrick Alexander (6-5, 240), *LB Henry Williams (5-5, 192, Sr.), LB Ticonda Mobley (5-9, 160, So.), DB D’Corius Johnson (6-0, 151, Sr.), DB Devontae Parker.
Sept. 4 at St. Michael
Sept. 11 Glen Oaks
Sept. 18 at Belaire
Sept. 25 at Walker
Oct. 1 Live Oak
Oct. 9 Dutchtown#
Oct. 16 at Catholic#
Oct. 23 McKinley#
Oct. 30 at St. Amant#
Nov. 6 at East Ascension#
Coach: Dale Weiner (262-78 at Catholic, 297-106 overall)
2014: 9-2, 5-0
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Brother Martin in Division I select quarterfinals)
Looking back: A very good season ended on a sour note as Catholic came up short in a 25-23 playoff loss to Brother Martin.
Moving forward: The nucleus of another good team returns with experienced playmakers on offense and defense.
Ask The Advocate: Catholic’s predistrict and district schedules are too tough to expect perfection, but it should be capable of a deep playoff run by season’s end.
Projected starters on offense (spread): WR Lance Chassion (5-9, 160, Jr.), WR Alex Bertrand (6-5, 200, Jr.), *WR Parker Sulik (5-9, 160, Sr.), WR Patrick Dunn (5-8, 150, Jr.), *RB Ben Miles (6-1, 210, Jr.), *RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (5-8, 190, Jr.), *QB Ian Brice (5-11, 180, Sr.), *T Evan Fontenot (6-3, 220, Jr.), G Zach Tom (6-2, 245, Jr.), *C Brett Fontaine (6-0, 260, Sr.), G Braeden Smith (5-10, 260, Sr.), *T Lawrence Hamilton (6-0, 255, Sr.).
Projected starters on defense (4-3): DE Tre Square (6-2, 220, Jr.), DE Rock Schexnayder (6-2, 210, Jr.), *DL K.J. Wilson (6-0, 260, Sr.), DL Aaron Moffitt (6-2, 250, Jr.), *LB Chase Priest (5-11, 215, Sr.), *LB Brandon Fairbanks (6-1, 210, Sr.), LB Jesse Theriot (602, 210, Sr.), DB Tarick Johnson (5-11, 175, Sr.), DB John Eric Ginn (5-10, 170, Sr.), *DB Connor Bowen (5-11, 180, Sr.), *DB Brian Henry (5-10, 160, Sr.).
Sept. 4 Parkview Baptist
Sept. 11 at Zachary
Sept. 18 at Sam Houston
Sept. 25 at St. Thomas More
Oct. 2 at Teurlings Catholic
Oct. 9 East Ascension#
Oct. 16 Broadmoor#
Oct. 23 at St. Amant#
Oct. 30 at Dutchtown#
Nov. 6 at McKinley#
Coach: Benny Saia (95-44 at Dutchtown, 140-88 overall)
2014: 4-7, 2-3
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Barbe in first round)
Looking back: Dutchtown lost five games by six points or less and was probably better than its final record indicated.
Moving forward: The Griffins are motivated to turn around their fortunes and should have a solid defense to rely on.
Ask The Advocate: Dutchtown will get its share of wins this season and will be a tough opponent for anyone in predistrict and district play.
Projected starters on offense: *SE Cornelius Washington (6-2, 180, Sr.), SE Sidney Jacobs (5-6, 145), TE Jonathan Zuppardo (6-2, 187, Jr.), *T Lloyd Cushenberry (6-5, 315, Sr.), *G Mylik McWilliams (5-10, 256, Sr.), C Cullen Gordon (6-2, 275, Sr.), G Caleb Marcotte (5-10, 227, Sr.), T Tim Turner (6-0, 246, Jr.), QB Jared Sparks (6-1, 195, Sr.), *RB Fitell Bolding (5-8, 187, Sr.), *RB Chris Falgost (5-11, 228, Sr.).
Projected starters on defense: DE Ryan Trahan (6-2, 200, Sr.), DE Sammy Latino (5-11, 215, Sr.), *DT Kyle Sarrazin (6-1, 265, Sr.), DT Dalton Bigner (6-1, 252, Jr.), *LB Sean Pruet (5-9, 204, Sr.), *LB Terrance Lymon (6-1, 210, Sr.), LB Byron Guillory (6-2, 185, So.), *DB Coney Durr (5-10, 184, Sr.), *DB Rickey Thomas (5-9, 165, Sr.), DB Adam Sparks (5-8, 153, Jr.), DB Charleston Armstrong (6-0, 180, Sr.).
Sept. 4 at Lutcher
Sept. 11 at Central
Sept. 18 at Hammond
Sept. 25 South Terrebonne
Oct. 2 Zachary
Oct. 9 at Broadmoor#
Oct. 16 at McKinley#
Oct. 23 East Ascension#
Oct. 30 Catholic#
Nov. 6 St. Amant#
East Ascension Spartans
Coach: Paul Bourgeois (26-19 at East Ascension, 85-21 overall)
2014: 6-6, 2-3
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Byrd in second round)
Looking back: It was all about offense as East Ascension averaged more than 34 points.
Moving forward: East Ascension should be dangerous on offense again and will be hard to beat if it gets consistent play on defense.
Ask The Advocate: If the Spartans can survive a brutal predistrict schedule, they will make noise on their way to another playoff appearance.
Projected starters on offense (spread): QB Kyran Irvin (6-0, 205, Sr.), RB Joshua Bates (5-10, 205, Sr.), RB Jose Joya (5-9, 185, Sr.), WR Lamarcus Jefferson (6-0, 175, Sr.), WR Josh LeBlanc (5-8, 155, Jr.), TE Ira Washington (6-0, 185, Jr.), T Gus Gutierrez (6-1, 260, Sr.), T Trevor Felming (5-9, 220, Jr.).
Projected starters on defense (4-2-5): DE Trey Jacobs (6-3, 210, Jr.), DE Derrlow Morris (5-10, 240, Sr.), DT Devon Sherman (6-0, 220, Sr.), DT Jaquin Johnson (5-9, 275, Sr.), LB Jamian Sampson (5-10, 185, Jr.), LB Joshua Donnis (6-1, 190, Jr.), DB Maurshaud Meloncon (5-10, 180, Sr.), DB Jonathan Bryant (5-10, 170, Sr.), DB Cameron Simpson (5-9, 165, Jr.), DB Garder Miles (6-1, 200, Jr.), DB Johnny Baker (5-11, 175, Sr.).
Sept. 4 at Denham Springs
Sept. 11 Thibodaux
Sept. 18 Zachary
Sept. 25 at Scotlandville
Oct. 2 at St. Charles
Oct. 9 at Catholic#
Oct. 16 St. Amant#
Oct. 23 at Dutchtown#
Oct. 30 McKinley#
Nov. 6 at Broadmoor#
Coach: Robert Signater Sr. (32-37 at McKinley, 73-55 overall)
2014: 4-6, 1-4
Last playoff appearance: 2013 (lost in first round to East Ascension)
Looking back: McKinley’s season peaked with a 7-3 win over St. Amant before it closed with three consecutive losses, causing the Panthers to miss the playoffs.
Moving forward: McKinley returns only a handful of starters but has the beef on its lines to be a factor in district play.
Ask The Advocate: McKinley’s youth may be too much to overcome in a tough district, but if it matures, it will be as competitive as it was a season ago when it narrowly missed a playoff berth.
Projected starters on offense: *SE Juwann Ruffin (5-8, 165, Sr.), T Tyler Smith (6-0, 305, Sr.), C Arthur Wiggins (6-0, 265, So.), T Shawn Barner (6-1, 310, Jr.), T Jeremiah Epherm (6-3, 315, So.), *QB Eric Larentte (6-1, 180, Sr.), QB Christian Smith (6-2, 225, Sr.).
Projected starters on defense: LB Lawrence Johnson (5-9, 250, Jr.), LB Anthony Raby (5-9, 220, Jr.), DB Jarvius Robertson (5-8, 200, Jr.), DT Elbin Alverize (5-8, 225, Jr.), DT Blake Williams (6-2, 300, So.) DE Travis Williams (6-2, 285, Sr.), DE Keithon Henderson (6-0, 260, Sr.), DB Calvin Stephens (6-0, 165, Sr.), DE Micah Mellion (6-3, 245, Sr.), DB Nick Wiggins (6-3, 220, Sr.).
Sept. 4 Scotlandville
Sept. 11 Capitol
Sept. 18 at St. Michael
Sept. 25 Denham Springs
Oct. 2 Central
Oct. 9 at St. Amant#
Oct. 16 Dutchtown#
Oct. 23 at Broadmoor#
Oct. 30 at East Ascension#
Nov. 6 Catholic#
St. Amant Gators
Coach: David Oliver (34-34)
2014: 6-4, 3-2
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Acadiana in first round)
Looking back: St. Amant closed with a three-game winning streak that included wins over Dutchtown and East Ascension before a first-round shutout at the hands of eventual state champion Acadiana.
Moving forward: A huge group of juniors along with just enough senior leadership has St. Amant poised for another playoff run.
Ask The Advocate: The Gators might be a year away, but if their junior class steps up, they could give Catholic a run for the district title.
Projected starters on offense (spread): QB Hayden Mallory (Jr.), *RB Nathan Taylor (Sr.), *FB Tanner Mayo (Sr.), *WR Briggs Bourgeois (Jr.), WR Ivan Pejan (Jr.), WR Jacob Cheatwood (Jr.), *T Wyatt Walker (Sr.), G Jacob Delaune (Jr.), C Marco Lopez, *G Zack Hebert (Sr.), *T Josh Banks.
Projected starters on defense (3-4): *DE Garett Stephens (Jr.), NG Anthony Wilson (Sr.), *DE Elliot Turner (Sr.), LB Myles Douglas, LB Jaylon Jack, *LB Cade Roddy, LB Xavier Anderson, DB Cody Simmons, DB Patrick Wolfe (Jr.), DB Jerrick Beckwith (Jr.), DB Khaj Washington (Jr.).
Sept. 4 at Live Oak
Sept. 11 Higgins
Sept. 18 Lutcher
Sept. 25 at Woodlawn
Oct. 2 South Terrebonne
Oct. 9 McKinley#
Oct. 16 at East Ascension#
Oct. 23 Catholic#
Oct 30 Broadmoor#
Nov. 6 at Dutchtown#
* — returning starter; # — district game