Destrehan begins defense of state title
|Photo by Jonathan Menard|
But head coach Stephen Robicheaux, who enters his ninth year at the school with an 81-17 record, must replace a lot from that championship squad.
Gone are Jordan Jefferson and Tim Molton, who both signed with LSU after the state championship. Jefferson finished the 2007 season as the state's Gatorade Player of the Year, throwing for 2,846 yards and 24 touchdowns. He had only three interceptions. Molton was a big target for Jefferson and reeled in 49 catches for 937 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Also missing from the Wildcats this year are current Arkansas Razorback Jerico Nelson and University of Tulsa signee Damaris Johnson. Nelson single-handedly served as Destrehan's ground attack last season, accounting for over 1,100 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns. Johnson was the MVP of the state championship game, and came through with several breathtaking plays all season. He finished with 81 catches for 1,228 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Those 81 catches were a school record.
And on defense, Destrehan lost safety Chris Richard, who was not only fast, but shut down the run. Richard is now at Louisiana-Lafayette.
Even without those players, Destrehan still figures to be a contender for the state championship.
“We did lose a lot of guys, but we also have a lot of guys back who won a state championship last year,” Robicheaux said.
On defense, the Wildcats return linebacker Rufus Porter, defensive lineman Darrington Sentimore and cornerback Antonio Parker. On offense, 90 percent of the line is back and starting receiver Brandon Armstrong also returns.
The Wildcats begin the year by hosting 4A Karr, before hitting the road to take on St. James and Terrebonne. Karr finished 2007 with a 6-7 record, including a 31-0 loss to the Wildcats. St. James was 12-3, while Terrebonne struggled last year. Destrehan then takes on Higgins and John Ehret, who they beat by a combined score of 75-14 in 2007.
After that, however, the Wildcats slip into district play with a game against Hahnville.
“I think we play a tough pre-district schedule and our district schedule is filled with good ball clubs,” Robicheaux said. “We played some close games in district last year and there is no doubt that helped us win a state championship.”
Offense: mDestrehan may have lost a lot on offense from last season, but there is still plenty of talent on that side of the ball.
Quarterback: Senior Wynrick Smothers will take over for Jefferson this season. Smothers, listed as 6'1, 185 pounds, did not play last season mainly because backup quarterback Ramal Ellis was so good. Still, Smothers has an accurate arm and can escape from pressure with his quick feet.
“He looks good and is throwing the ball well,” Robicheaux said.
Sophomores Marcus Lane and Taylor Dunn will serve as backups.
Running backs: Senior Myron Smith and Junior Henry Lenox will attempt to fill the shoes of Nelson and Joel Banks, who have both moved on. Both players are first-time starters, but they have solid builds and can run. Smith is listed at 5'10, 180 pounds, while Lenox is 6'1, 215 pounds.
“Myron Smith played some last year, but our backs are young,” Robicheaux said. “Because our offensive line is so experienced, I think that will really allow our backs to grow as the season progresses.”
Wide Receivers: The lone returning skill player is senior receiver Brandon Armstrong. Armstrong's 33-yard touchdown catch in last year's state championship gave the Wildcats a 35-21 lead over Acadiana, which effectively put the game out of reach. Joining Armstrong in the receiving corps is senior Corey Vidal and junior Kyron King. Both players will be starting for the first time.
Offensive Line: The line will be the strongest area on the Destrehan offense. Bobby Gorman, Ashton Duhe, Kyle Wagner and Blaine Wagner all return again, filling four of the five spots on the line. Gorman, B. Wagner and K. Wager are all seniors and will resume their roles at tackle, guard and center, respectively. Duhe, who is only a junior, has a promising future considering he started on a 15-0 team as a sophomore. Senior Kurt Hebert will move into the starting role at guard.
“We have so much experience there,” Robicheaux said. “We have four starters back from a 15-win team that won the state championship. The line will definitely be the strength of our offense.”
Defense: While Destrehan was loaded with stars on offense last season, this year their stars are on the other side of the ball.
Defensive Line: Thanks to the presence of Sentimore and fellow returning starter Calvin Ursin, the Wildcat defensive line will be a major strength this season. Sentimore, who will start at defensive end, had a ridiculous year in 2007. He finished the season with 120 tackles, 31 tackles for loss and 16 sacks. Not only is he extremely powerful, but Sentimore also happens to be fast, recording a 40 time of 4.6 seconds, according to Rivals.com. Ursin, who started as a sophomore, will plug up the middle with his 6'0, 240 pound frame. Senior Brennon Nora will line up at the other end spot.
“The defensive line is as good as we've had in a while,” Robicheaux said. “They are very fast.”
Linebackers: The linebacking corp will be led by Porter, who will start on the inside. As a junior, Porter recorded 100 tackles and two sacks. Sophomore Tarquin Kenner will join Porter on the inside, while seniors Trevonne Parquet and Brian Blackwell will cover the outside.
Cornerbacks: Returning starter Parker is heading for a breakout season. He was a 2nd Team All-State selection last year and looks to land a spot on the first team this season. He will be joined in the defensive backfield by fellow senior Otis Ben.
Safety: At both safety positions, the Wildcats will start newcomers. Evin Fremin will start at strong safety, while Devon Walker will hold down the free safety spot.
Special Teams: Destrehan won't have to worry about dealing with many kickoff returns from their opponents this season. Senior Ryan Rome was clutch all year long for the Wildcats and sent the majority of his kickoffs deep into the other team's endzone.
Overall: With returning starters on both the offensive and defensive lines, the Wildcats should be strong up front on both sides of the ball. If Sentimore continues to make rag dolls of his opponents, it will be hard for any opposing quarterback to get off an accurate throw - especially with Parker patrolling the secondary. Offensively, an experienced line should give an inexperienced backfield the help they need to develop as the season progresses.
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