If Destrehan had a down season in 2017, it is only so because of the sky high bar set by the program in recent years.
Most schools would likely consider themselves fortunate if a mark of 9-3 and a trip to the second round of the state playoffs represented a blip, but such is the case for a Wildcats program that had not lost a regular season game since 2012 and had made trips to a championship game, two semifinals and a quarterfinal over its previous four seasons.
Opposing teams shouldn’t take it as a trend, though: last year’s Wildcats were very young with few seniors.
This year’s team will not be.
“It’s a good thing for us, for sure. We have a lot of numbers … 35 or 36 seniors this year, and guys who are not only good players but good people,” said Destrehan coach Stephen Robicheaux on a senior class he’s high on. “They work hard and we’ve got a lot done so far this spring.”
Destrehan completed its spring practice this week and Robicheaux liked what he saw. Defensively, the team has a few more departures to fill than it does on the offensive side, which is full of returning starters and multi-year starters.
It starts in the backfield, where senior John Emery returns as one of the state’s most sought after running back recruits. He’ll line up alongside fellow senior J.R. Blood, the team’s returning starter at quarterback. Emery has seen action since his freshman season and he’s earned significant carries since his sophomore season. Blood, meanwhile, saw heavy action in his sophomore season after he was called on following an injury to then-starter Kohen Granier, and Blood was the every week starter as a junior.
“You have to be pretty excited to have those guys back,” Robicheaux said. “Blood has that senior mentality now. He does a real good job and with the guys we have around him, guys around this program for the past four years like John Emery, Quinton Torbor, you can see the leadership from each of them.”
Torbor is another sought after recruit, the team’s top returning receiver from a year ago. Meanwhile, Quincy Brown is younger but extremely talented. Both players have received significant attention from major schools at the next level.
“I really like what (offensive coordinator) Coach (Greg) Boyne is doing with the offense. I think we’re doing some things we haven’t done in the past. We have a lot of options there and a lot of depth on offense.
“If the last two weeks are any indication, it’s great news for us. They’ve been tremendous all spring.”
The one less experienced group on offense is the offensive line, where Robicheaux notes the team is inexperienced but making rapid progress.
Defensively, the team will have a different voice at the helm after former Destrehan defensive coordinator Marcus Scott departed to accept the head coaching job at John Ehret. Former Slidell defensive coordinator Malter Scobel takes over in his stead, and Destrehan is quite familiar with him, as Slidell has been the Wildcats’ traditional Week One opponent over the past few seasons.
“We’re a little less experienced defensively, but Coach Scobel has done a tremendous job so far. Our kids are flying around and responding real well,” Robicheaux said.
Middle linebacker Alex Huszar and cornerbacks Denzel Riley and Dontrell Smith are among returning starters and standouts on that side of the ball. The return of Champ Craven should prove to be a boost as well. Craven started for Destrehan as a sophomore before suffering a knee injury early in his junior year.