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De La Salle running back Kendall Collins runs for a touchdown against University Lab on Dec. 8, 2017, in the Division II state championship game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. Collins is scheduled to sign with Southeastern Louisiana.

After making it to the state title game last season for the first time in 56 years, De La Salle’s new-look team knows nothing is guaranteed in 2018.

The 2017 Cavaliers finished (12-1, 5-0), winning District 10-3A and made it to the Division II state championship, but lost to University High 45-19 in the Superdome.

Since their historic run, the Cavs have tied Jesuit 14-14 in their spring game. But after the grind of summer workouts, De La Salle got their first taste of action this fall against Carver in a scrimmage on Aug. 15, winning 21-18, but lost 15-14 against Ponchatoula in their jamboree on Aug. 24.

De La Salle enters 2018 ranked No.1 in the The New Orleans Advocate Small School Super 10, but coach Ryan Manale said the team is taking it one step at a time and is a long way from accomplishing their goals of winning another district title and making a playoff run.

“We were successful in 2017, 2016 and 2015, but that’s those years. It’s all in the rearview mirror. The leaders need to lead, and we have a lot of guys that are seniors that are just phenomenal in the classroom, phenomenal in the community,” Manale said. “Leaders need to lead and the followers need to know who to follow.”

For the Cavaliers, their senior leadership comes on both sides of the ball in the form of running back Kendall Collins and defensive lineman Theodore Tyler, who were key contributors on last year’s team.

The two seniors look to take what they have learned from the 2017 senior class that saw 12 starters move on to college football programs.

“Those were kind of big shoes to fill because we had older guys teaching us when we were young, like the younger guys are now,” said Tyler who had 40 tackles, 11 tackles for losses and a sack last season.  “So now that we’re seniors on the team, we need to develop our younger guys to be better athletes.”

“We’ve been trying to get the team to play higher and get better. The team last year, it was really good on leadership. Really good guys last year — good grades, they did everything you could do on the football field and in the different classes — and we preach about that every day,” said Collins, who rushed for 1,094 yards and 16 touchdowns last year.  

The biggest hole to fill for the Cavaliers is replacing their do-it-all quarterback from last season Julien Gums.

He rushed for 1,203 yards and 15 touchdowns and threw for 1,181 yards and 13 touchdowns last year, before leaving to play for Nicholls St. this season. He compiled a list of awards in his exceptional senior season: Louisiana Sports Writers Association 3A Offensive Most Valuable Player, a first team all-state selection and Offensive Player of the Year for The New Orleans Advocate’s All-Metro Team for Small Schools.

Junior Fisher Rojas steps into Gums’ role of commanding the De La Salle spread offense that features a quarterback-heavy involvement in the running and passing games.  

“He’s getting to understand the defenses and all those types of things and also he’s running hard. We’re just worrying about playing pitch and catch with him,” said Collins, a senior running back.

“Julien (Gums) is not walking back in the locker room. So you can’t compare Fisher Rojas to Julien (Gums). What Fisher Rojas needs to be is the best Fisher Rojas. If he can do that, he can lead this team,” Manale said.  

Rojas will have help as Collins (5-foot-9, 185 pounds) will be the Cavs’ workhorse back, with sophomore Montrell Johnson (5-11, 193) spelling him.

“I can help them out because I think I can do anything. Wherever coach puts me, I can do it. I just try to give it my all, every time, every play,” said Collins, who cites his inspirations as former Saints running back Reggie Bush and Patriots running back Sony Michel, trying to apply their running-styles to his game.

“Montrell Johnson is an athlete, he broke one of the first plays of the scrimmage here and got caught, but he’s going to improve from that and he’s really been playing well,” said Manale, about Johnson’s 50-plus-yard run in the Aug. 15 scrimmage against Carver.

Manale has also seen other standouts on both sides of the ball since the start of offseason training.

“Up front we have a few nice linemen, but a couple of the young guys are coming into their own. I thought Noah Devlin, who’s a junior offensive lineman just has shown some of the stuff that you want in an offensive lineman. I really like the leadership of Jordan Clark at the linebacker position on defense,” Manale added.    

Still, he’s not shy about calling out the issues he sees need fixing, like after the team’s close finish in their opening scrimmage.

“We need to have a totally different outlook and mentality, and right now were not nearly the physical enough team and not nearly playing with the amount of energy that we need to do to be successful,” said Manale.

Collins didn’t put it lightly either, as he has high expectations and preaches accountability on the Cavs’ offense.

“There’s always room for improvement on everything, every position — running back, receiver, quarterback, offensive line — it’s everything we do. We just have to improve, and we just have to be bigger and better than the team last year,” he said.

Tyler, who models his game after Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, says the defense needs to work on getting opposing offenses off the field better, but he especially likes what he has seen from junior defensive back Joseph Husband, who finished last season with 39 tackles and three interceptions.

“He stepped up last year for us and I’m ready for him to step up again this year,” said Tyler.

While Tyler and Collins cite improvement as their main focus, knowing they have one more year and a chance to leave a mark on the program left them glaring with excitement.

“The thing that’s really getting me excited is that I get to keep playing football. Another year with these guys. Some of the seniors from last year came down to watch us play and that really makes them happy. Football period, just to play football.”

“It just excites me when (Collins) runs the ball, I’m not going to lie,” said Tyler. “But I get another year playing with the younger guys so it’s more development for me and them to try to get back to where we were last year.”

Despite his early season critiques, Manale is eager to see the growth of his young group ahead of their season-opener against South Lafourche Aug. 30 at Pan American Stadium at 7 p.m.

“I’m just looking at De La Salle and we have a long way to go and I’m just hoping — the thing I’m excited about is I think we have players that are really going to be humble and hungry to improve,” said Manale. “We’re eying South Lafourche week one and that’s it.”

With the long grind of the regular season ahead, Collins said it’s going to take sacrifice and the mental and physical toughness to achieve the Cavs’ goals, improving and developing, day by day.

“We just got to have the heart and mind to play through everything. We have to play through being tired and we just have to give it our all every play. We have to condition, we have to play physical, we have to play hard. Never let De La Salle beat De La Salle,” said Collins.

District 10-3A Capsules:

De La Salle Cavaliers

2017 Record: 12-1, 5-0 district

Head Coach: Ryan Manale (seventh season, 53-14)

Offense:

OL Bryce Fricke 6’4 293 Sr.          

OL Noah Devlin 6’2 265 Jr. *        

OL Gabe France 5’8 199 Sr.

OL John Martin 6’2 330 So.

OL Terry Farmer 5’11 260 Sr.

TE Lemaj Kendrick 6’2 220 Jr.

QB Fisher Rojas 5’11 166 Jr.

RB Kendall Collins 5’9 185 Sr. *  

WR Ivan Paz 5’10 185 Sr.

WR Jacques Juneau 5’9 177 Sr.

FB Kendall Baker 5’11 235 Sr. *

ATH Montrell Johnson 5’11 186 So.

Defense:

DL Theodore Tyler   6’2 245 Sr. * 

DL Nick Rader 5’11 278 Sr.

DL Tristan LeWallen 6’1 220 Sr.

DL Logan Guerrera 5’7 225 Sr.

DL Ja’marian Peterson 6’2            210 So.

DL Dwane Tillis 5’11 225 So.

LB Shamar Keelen 6’0 175 So.

LB Jordan Clark 5’11 225 Sr.

LB Jude Milford 5’9 186 Fr.

DB Marvin Nunez 5’8 150 Sr. *

DB Quincy Thomas 5’8 140 Sr.

DB Joseph Husband 5’10 180 Jr. *

DB Deanta Lebranch 5’6 150 Fr.

DB Nakia Ealy 5’8 156 Sr.

 

Schedule:

Thurs., Aug. 30 South Lafourche 7:00 p.m. Pan American

Thurs., Sep. 6 St. Augustine 7:00 p.m. Tad Gormley

Fri., Sep. 14 Karr 7:00 p.m. Behrman

Fri., Sep. 21 TBA

Fri., Sep 28 Riverside 7:00 p.m. Pan American

Fri., Oct. 5 Haynes 7:00 p.m. Bertilino

Fri., Oct. 12 Lusher 7:00 p.m. 7:00 p.m. Pan American Stadium

Fri., Oct. 19 St. James 7:00 p.m. St. James

Fri., Oct. 26 St. Charles 7:00 p.m. Tulane

Fri., Nov. 2, Donaldsonville 7:00 p.m. Donaldsonville

 

3 Players to watch:

RB Kendall Collins 156 /1094 16 TD’s 5’9 185 Sr.

DL Theodore Tyler 40 Tackles/11 For Loss/1 Sack 6’2 245 Sr.

DB Joseph Husband 39 Tackles/ 3 INT 5’10 180 Jr.

Key game(s):

Thurs., Sep. 6 St. Augustine 7:00 p.m. Tad Gormley

Fri., Sep. 14 Karr 7:00 p.m. Behrman

 

Season Outlook:

The Cavaliers look for new faces to step up after 12 starters departed from the 2017 senior class. Sophomore quarterback Fisher Rojas takes over for Julien Gums, the 2017 Offensive Player of the Year for The New Orleans Advocate’s All-Metro Team for Small Schools. The Cavs will lean on returning senior running back Kendall Collins on offense and returning senior defensive lineman Theodore Tyler and junior Joseph Husband anchor the defense.

Haynes Academy Yellow Jackets

2017 Record: 0-10

Head Coach: Paul Longo (fourth season, 16-16)

Offense:

C Evan Conners 5’9 Jr.

G Rylee Westerfield 6’0 225 So.

GRobert Westerfield 6’1 220 So.

T David Beach 6’4 282 Sr.

T Zack Toupes 5’10 215 Sr.

TE Josh Christofferson 6’2 225 Jr.

WR Thomas Gaffney 6’1 185 Sr.

WR Ari Currera 5’10 170 So.

FB Paul Longo 5’10 195 Jr.

RB Gavin Burns 5’7 160 Sr.

QB Zack Bott 5’11 175 Jr.

 

Defense:

DE Jacob Edwards 6’3 185 Sr.

T Josh Alvarez 5’10 215 So.

NG Brian Weindel 5’10 310 Sr.

T David Beach 6’4 282 Sr.

DE Ronnie Ohlsonn 5’11 195 So.

LB Hassan Al Hassani 5’10 180 Sr.

LB Paul Longo 5’10 195 Jr.

S Jacob Meilleur 5’6 135 Jr.

S Julius Plauche 5’10 165 Jr.

CB Gavin Burns 5’7 160 Sr.

CB Thomas Gaffney 6’1 185 Sr.

 

Schedule:

Thurs., Aug. 30 Thomas Jefferson High School 6:30 p.m. Thomas Jefferson

Thurs., Sept. 6 Riverdale 6:30 p.m. Haynes

Fri., Sept. 14 Benjamin Franklin 4:00 p.m. Benjamin Franklin

Thurs., Sept. 20 Fisher 7:00 p.m. Yenni Stadium

Fri., Sept. 28 Pearl River 7:00 p.m. Pearl River

Sat., Oct. 6 De La Salle 2:00 p.m. Haynes

Thurs., Oct. 11 St. James 6:30 p.m. Haynes

Fri., Oct. 19 St. Charles Catholic 7:00 p.m. St. Charles Catholic

Thurs., Oct. 25 Donaldsonville 6:30 p.m.

Thurs., Nov. 1 Lusher 7:00 p.m. Haynes

3 Players to watch:

QB Zach Bott Jr.

WR/CB Thomas Gaffney Sr.

RB/CB Gavin Burns Sr.

Key game:

Thurs., Nov. 1 Lusher 7:00 p.m. Haynes

 

Season outlook:

The Yellow Jackets increased their roster numbers in the offseason and look to compete after finishing with no wins in 2017. They have a young team that got a lot of action last year, but they return key starters in junior quarterback Zach Bott and two-way players in senior receiver/corner Thomas Gaffney and senior running back/cornerback Gavin Burns.

 

Lusher Lions

2017 Record: 4-7, 1-4 district

Coach: J.J. Smith (first season)

 

Offense:

QB Arnold Little 5’10 170 So.

RB Miles Stewart 5’9 180 Jr.

FB Jorren Butler 5’10 195 Sr.

WR Chad Britton 5’11 160 Sr.

WR Evan Simons 5’8 140 Jr.

WR Seth Hunter 6’1 145 Jr.

TE Sam Kates 6’5 194 Jr.

OT Brandon Preuss 6’3 225 Jr.

OT Eddie Cerrone 6’1 220 Fr.

OG Sidney Cazeno 5’5 230 Jr.

C Hayden Boudreaux 6’0 250

OG Joshua Green 5’8 245 Sr.

Defense:

DL Hayden Lampard 6’0 210 So.

DL Will Sternbergh 6’2 181 Sr.

DL Joey August 5’11 225 8th

DL Trent Johnson 5’11 195 So.

LB Chandler Jones 6’0 183 Jr.

LB Marucs Lewis 6’0 185 Sr.

LB Jorren Butler 5’10 195 Sr.

S Max Barron 6’2 142 Sr.

S Sterling McKeithen 5’10 160 Jr.

CB Amir Key 6’2 154 Fr.

CB Bryce Langford 5’10 170 Sr.

 

Schedule:

Fri., Aug. 31  Bonnabel 7:00 p.m. Muss Bertolino Stadium

Fri., Sept. 7    McMain 7:00 p.m. Lusher

Thurs., Sept. 13 Thomas Jefferson 6:30 p.m. West Jefferson Stadium

Fri., Sept. 21  White Castle 7:00 p.m. Lusher

Fri., Sept. 28  Newman 7:00 p.m. Newman

Fri., Oct. 5 St. Charles Catholic 7:00pm St. Charles Catholic

Fri., Oct. 12 De La Salle7:00 p.m. Pan American Stadium

Fri., Oct.19 Donaldsonville 7:00pm Donaldsonville

Fri., Oct. 26 St. James 7:00pm St. James

Thurs., Nov. 1 Haynes Academy 7:00pm Joe Yenni Stadium

3 Players to watch:

WR Chad Britton Sr.

RB Miles Stewart Jr.

LB Marcus Lewis Sr.

Key game:

Fri., Oct. 5 St. Charles Catholic 7:00pm St. Charles Catholic

Season outlook:

First-year head coach J.J. Smith takes over and looks to improve from four wins a year ago and surprise teams in the division. Sophomore quarterback Arnold Little is back under center and will have weapons at receiver in senior Chad Britton and junior Evan Simons. The Lions look to senior captain and linebacker Marcus Lewis to lead the Lusher defense.

St. Charles Catholic Comets

2017 Record: 9-3, 4-1 district

Head Coach: Frank Monica (17th season at SCC 173-61; 258-80 overall)

Offense:

TE Jacob Ganote Sr. (height, weight not listed)

FB Trey Lowry Sr. (height, weight not listed)

WR Taylor Miller 5’11 177 Sr.

WR Cameron Fabre 6’0 150 Sr.

WR Sutton Bourgeios 6’1 165 Sr.  

RB  Phillip Tran 5’7 160 Jr.

RB Joe Chiarella 5’7 165 Sr.

QB Justin Dumas 5’11 165 Jr.

LT Evan Roussel 6’0 240 Jr.

LG Joshua Carter 6’0 260 Sr.

C/T Grant Vicknair 6’0 280 Sr.

G/C Joey Hebert 5’7 250 Sr.

RT Nathan Guillory 5’9 (weight not listed) Jr.

G/T George Louper (height, weight not listed) Sr.

T/G Matthew Accardo (height, weight not listed) Jr.

Defense:

DT Jordan Brown (height, weight not listed) Sr.

DT Mason Narcisse 6’3 287 Jr.

NG Moses Clark (height, weight not listed) Fr.

DT Aaron Johnson (height, weight not listed) Sr.

DE Eli Ory (height, weight not listed) Jr.

DE Reggie Hackett (height, weight not listed) Jr.

LB Sammy Accardo (height, weight not listed) Sr.

LB Mandell Eugene 6’1 190 So.

LB Anderson Sirmon 5’10 195 Sr.

LB Josh Tamplain 5’8 133 So.

SS Luke Brouwer 5’8 155 Sr.

FS Bryce Authement (height, weight not listed) Sr.  

CB Cameron Campbell (height, weight not listed) So.

CB Nick Lorio (height, weight not listed) Sr.

CB Kobie Burke (height, weight not listed) Sr.

Nickel CB Cade Pregeant  (height, weight not listed) So.

Schedule:

Fri., Aug. 31 Chalmette 7:00 p.m. St. Charles

Fri., Sept. 7 Destrehan 7:00 p.m. Destrehan

Fri., Sept. 14 Wilkinson County 7:00 p.m. St. Charles

Fri., Sept. 21 Metairie Park Country Day 4:00 p.m. Metairie Park Country Day

Fri., Sept. 28 East Ascension 7:00 p.m. St. Charles

Fri., Oct. 5 Lusher 7:00 p.m. St. Charles

Fri., Oct. 12 Donaldsonville St. Charles

Fri., Oct. 19 Haynes Academy 7:00 p.m. St. Charles

Fri., Oct. 26 De La Salle 7:00 p.m. De La Salle

Fri., Nov. 2 St. James 7:00 p.m. St. James

3 Players to watch:

RB Joseph Chiarella Sr.

RB Philip Tran Jr.

DT Mason Narcisse Jr.

 

Key game:

Fri., Oct. 26 De La Salle 7:00 p.m. De La Salle

Season outlook:

 

The Comets return four starters on offense and five on defense and look for their young players to step up in 2018. St. Charles faces three 5A teams in their pre-district schedule and looks to compete with St. James for the top spots in the district, challenging De La Salle for the title. The Comets have to replace All-state athlete Lloyd Nash on offense, but have a defensive stalwart in defensive lineman Mason Narcisse.

St. James Wildcats

2017 Record: 9-4, 3-2 district

Head Coach: Robert Valdez (second season at St. James 17-7, 90-44)

Offense:

OL Donald Nelson Jr, 6’3 290 Jr.

OL Greg Rounds 5’9 220 So.*

OL Rahlik Fleming 5’9 220 Sr.

OL Daniel King 5’11 225 Sr.*

OL Deontae Brooks 6’1 305 Sr.

QB Shamar Smith 5’11 185 Jr.*

RB Dontaz Sterling 5’9 210 Sr.*

RB Sean LeBeouf 5’9 180 Jr.*

WR Tyshone Williams 5’9 185 Jr.

WR Logan Gravois 5’10 170 Jr.

WR She’N Joseph 5’10 170 Jr.

Defense:

DL Craig James 6’5 220 Sr.

DL Jaheim Jones 5’11 250 Sr.

DL Savion Jones 6’5 215 So.

DL/LB Chase Geason 6’4 230 Jr.  

LB Kaleb Brown 5’9 205 So.

LB Lamon Lewis 6’0 210 Jr.*

DB/LB  Deandra Harry 6’0 190 Sr.

DB/LB Arum Joseph 5’11 195 Sr.

DB Tyler Steib 6’1 185 Jr.*

DB Tai’Rhys Smith 5’10 175 Sr.

DB Brad Batiste 5’10 170 Jr.

 

Schedule:

Fri., Aug. 31 West St. John 7:00 p.m. St. James

Fri., Sept. 7 Lutcher 7:00 p.m. Lutcher

Fri., Sept. 14 E.D. White 7:00 p.m. E.D. White

Fri., Sept. 21 Wossman 7:00 p.m. St. James

Fri., Sept. 28 St. Amant 7:00 p.m. St. Amant

Fri., Oct. 5 Donaldsonville 7:00 p.m. St. James

Thurs., Oct. 11 Haynes 6:30 p.m. Haynes

Sat., Oct. 20 De La Salle 7:00 p.m. De La Salle

Fri., Oct. 26 Lusher 7:00 p.m. St. James

Fri., Nov. 2 St. Charles Catholic 7:00 p.m. St. James

 

3 Players to watch:

QB Shamar Smith 5’11 185 Jr.

RB Sean Lebouf 5’9 180 Jr.

RB Dontaz Sterling 5’9 210 Sr.

 

Key game:

Sat., Oct. 20 De La Salle 7:00 p.m. De La Salle

Season Outlook:

St. James looks to challenge St. Charles for the top spots in the district and make a run at De La Salle. The Wildcats will have to rely on their returning junior quarterback Shamar Smith and two-headed rushing attack in senior Dontaz Sterling and junior Sean Lebeouf.