Even with the nation’s top receiver watching from the press box, Warren Easton’s offense ended the spring by showing it is as good as advertised.
But Eagles coach Tony Hull wants to see improvement from the defense after Friday’s 35-28 spring game loss to St. Augustine at Pan-Am Stadium.
Led by quarterback Deshawn Capers-Smith, Easton scored four touchdowns against the Purple Knights, but gave up a touchdown late to end the game.
“I thought we did well offensively,” Hull said. “We moved the ball well and did some great things. However, we have to shore up our defense.”
St. Augustine receiver Stanley Morgan caught a touchdown late (his third of the game) to seal the win.
Capers-Smith led Easton, which played without star receiver Tyron Johnson.
Hull decided to hold out Johnson, who earlier in the week was boosted to a five-star rating and the No. 6 player in the country (and No. 1 receiver) by rivals.com.
“This wasn’t important enough for us to take a chance and play him,” Hull said. “We didn’t have the No. 1 receiver in the country, and we still moved the ball at ease when we wanted to. With him, we will be that much better.”
Capers-Smith, who has committed to Texas A&M, accounted for all four Easton touchdowns. He threw three touchdowns (two to Darrel Clark and another to Clyde Leflore) and ran for another. He completed 12 of 16 passes for 166 yards and also ran for 107 yards on 13 carries.
Hull wasn’t surprised.
“I think Deshawn is the most under rated player in the New Orleans Area,” Hull said. “The things he was able to do today was amazing.”
The versatile Capers-Smith picked off right where he left off last season. As a junior, he completed 50 of 95 passes for 929 yards and 10 touchdowns and rushed for 327 yards and seven touchdowns last season as a junior. As a wide receiver, he caught 25 passes for 328 yards and three touchdowns.
“The thing I was most impressed with this spring is the way Deshawn has matured and the way the offensive line has matured,” Hull said. “I thought we ran the ball extremely well. We were extremely balanced. Being able to run the ball is a luxury for us.”
Expectations will be sky-high for the Eagles this fall.
They return almost their entire team from last season’s squad that finished 10-3 and reached the Class 4A quarterfinals where they lost 35-26 to eventual state champion East Jefferson.
“We are only as good as our last loss, so I think we will piggyback off that and only get better,” said defensive back Charven Morris, who also sat out the scrimmage. “We really worked on the small things to get better. We know some of the small things are what held us back.”
The Eagles could have perhaps used Morris on Friday. St Aug threw for 261 yards in the scrimmage, including six pass plays that went for 25 yards or more.
“One thing I guarantee you is that teams will not be able to throw the ball on us in the fall,” Hull said.
Linebacker Arthur McGinnis, another highly-recruited player for the Eagles, left Friday’s scrimmage optimistic.
“I believe we had a great spring,” McGinnis said. “We had a lot of enthusiasm, and everyone came out and worked hard, even though we didn’t get the win.”
McGinnis is well aware of the lofty expectations this season for the Eagles, who will likely be the favorite in the rugged district that includes perennial power Edna Karr, Landry-Walker, Belle Chasse and McDonogh 35. All five of the teams made the playoffs last season, with Karr, Landry-Walker and Easton being top five seeds.
“We know we have a lot on our shoulders with people thinking we are this and thinking we are that,” McGinnis said “We try not to think about that. We want to just play ball like we play it.”
“We aren’t really concerned about the expectations,” Hull said.
“The fact that St. Aug is excited to play with us tells me that Warren Easton has come a long way. We don’t really worry about expectations. We just worry about ourselves.”