Watching the Destrehan football team practice this spring, it's easy to see a difference between this squad and the one that struggled to a 3-7 record last year. While last year it was the coaches alone who provided encouragement, this year the seniors have stepped in to help with that role.
|Upcoming senior defensive back Oliver Adams makes a leaping interception during a Destrehan spring practice while upcoming junior Antonio Coleman looks on. The Wildcats finished with a 3-7 record last year, but with returning starters in several key posit
"The senior leadership has been great and it's much better than we had last year," Destrehan head coach Chris Stroud said. "Their vocal leadership helps give them ownership of this team and that will carry over to the field."
The Wildcats return almost all of their key contributors on offense. Quarterback Dillon Dent, who took over starting duties early in the season, is back as are senior running backs Kevin Smith and Mark Trudeaux. Wide receiver Rickey Jefferson, who electrified the crowd last year as a sophomore, returns along with a handful of offensive lineman.
Defensively, Destrehan will have to do without linebacker Tarquin Kenner, who was a three-year starter. Still, there is plenty of talent on that side of the ball. The defensive line, with returning starters Bryan Singleton and Marrick Charles, might be the best in the state next season.
Because of all that experience, Stroud said his team has gone through a really good spring.
"Everyone is playing great and working hard," he said.
Though there have been a few early casualties.
"We had a couple of kids quit on the o-line, so we are going to have to find some more guys there," Stroud said.
But that's the only negative so far.
"Offensively, we are 10 times ahead of where we were at this point last season and our defense has looked great and guys are flying around out there," Stroud said.
Another difference between this spring and last spring for the Wildcats has been the introduction of new rules that govern football practice. Destrehan and other high schools across the state are limited to only 10 days of practice in pads during the spring. Previously, schools were allowed 15 days. Also, schools are not allowed to play another team in a spring game.
Since football teams can only begin practice once baseball season is over, Destrehan has had to squeeze in those 10 days in a two-week period.
"And we've had junior ring ceremonies and graduation so that has affected the 10 days we can practice, but it's not that big of a change," Stroud said. "We used to slow down more and teach, but now we are teaching while the guys are playing hard.
"The kids are having fun."
Destrehan will still have their annual Garnet and Gray game this Saturday at 10 a.m. The coaches will be divided into two teams and they will then draft players.
"It does hurt not getting to go against another team in pads, but we are still able to see what our guys our made of when they go against each other," Stroud said. "The most important part of spring is getting to see which kids are physical and who is going to get hit hard, get back up and continue to play hard."