Destrehan coach enjoying life back on sideline; Thomas among stars of spring

Johnnie Thiel IV

Months after receiving a kidney transplant, and with it a new lease on life, Marcus Scott was back in his element this spring as he guided his Destrehan Wildcats through its 2024 spring practice. 

As Scott prepared his team for one of the most anticipated spring scrimmages in the state Wednesday against the Karr Cougars, it was clear that there was nowhere he’d rather be.

“It’s been great. Let me tell you, you don’t realize how much you miss being around everyone, seeing the kids and the coaches, until you can’t do it anymore,” said Scott. “It’s certainly something I’m grateful for and something I won’t ever take for granted going forward.”

Scott was down to very low kidney function and was on the waiting list to receive a transplant until his Nov. 17 surgery. He was out of action for the final games of Destrehan’s season and away from the school while recovering, before returning to campus earlier this year. 

He returns to a Destrehan squad that will be replacing several starters this year, though that was also the case a year ago – Destrehan nonetheless extended its state long winning streak to 25 and reached the state quarterfinals again before falling to Zachary. 

A central figure to the Destrehan program is gone; running back Shane Lee was synonymous with the Wildcats’ offense throughout his years at the school and will be running at Nicholls State this fall. But quarterback Jackson Fields returns after his debut season saw him post production among the area’s elite passers. 

Scott said Fields has put together a very consistent spring, while running back Shane Ward will lead a talented group of running backs. Ward saw considerable playing time last year and was extremely productive in his starts when Lee was sidelined late last season. Destrehan also boasts a very talented receiving group of returning players. Offensive coordinator Greg Boyne made the jump across the river to accept the head coaching position at Hahnville as well. Scott said the Wildcats’ offensive philosophy will largely remain intact, though. 

“Offensively, our goal is to get our playmakers the football – that was the case before and it’ll be the same going forward,” Scott said. “There will be some subtle changes in there, but we’ll be similar … Jackson’s had a good spring. Offensively, we’ve had a lot of guys do well – it’s been by committee. Shane Ward, he earned a ton of time last year and we have three young backs as well that we feel really good about.”

Defensively, Destrehan will bring back six starters and have to replace five others, including star defensive end/linebacker Kolaj Cobbins, who is off to LSU. 

One key returning name in the secondary is Jhase Thomas, one of the Wildcats’ top defensive backs a year ago. The 6’3 senior-to-be has earned attention at the collegiate level, including from LSU where he recently made a visit. 

Jayden Bailey, who was a key part of the Wildcats’ running back rotation last season, has made the move to cornerback and has adapted quite well this spring, Scott said. Another defensive back, Blake Brown, has also performed at an outstanding level, Scott said. It could all add up to another strong secondary at Destrehan in 2024. 

DEFENSES DOMINATE IN SPRING GAME – A year after offense dominated what’s become an annual spring scrimmage – and showcase of talent – between Destrehan and Karr, defense reigned supreme in 2024.

Only two touchdowns were surrendered on the day, both scored by Karr, but nonetheless each team generated numerous highlights during a spring game that again drew fans, media and collegiate coaches out en masse. 

Karr’s John Johnson connected with Anthony Thomas for a touchdown pass in the redzone drill portion of the scrimmage, while in live quarter play Karr rusher Jermond Macklin scored the period’s lone touchdown.

Last season, the two teams combined to lose just three games, with Karr reaching the Division I select semifinals and Destrehan the Division I non-select quarterfinals.

The Wildcats’ 35-14 quarterfinal loss to Zachary was Destrehan’s only loss of 2023, snapping DHS’ 25-game winning streak. It’s only made this group of Wildcats hungrier, says returning defensive back Jhase Thomas. 

“It was a hard loss against a big, disciplined team,” said Thomas. “We want to get back.”

Destrehan head coach Marcus Scott said the team will simply use it as fuel.

“We’re very motivated,” said Scott. “We have the opportunity to really take a deep dive and self-reflect, and we’ll only get better. I thought our kids competed hard tonight.”

As far as the contrast between last year’s shootout and this year’s defensive battle, Scott said when it comes to the two teams facing off in the scrimmage “you just never know” what you’re going to get when they collide. 

“We always relish the chance to play a program like Karr, it only makes you better,” Scott said. 

Thomas was among the stars of the day. The safety and the son of former Saints’ standout cornerback Fred Thomas landed a crushing hit to set a tone during the action, which had the sideline and the crowd buzzing. 

“It felt really good to get out there. We’ve been working hard,” Thomas said. “This is what our defense prepared to do – we’re always going to embrace competition like that.”

At 6’3 and 180 pounds, he’s set to take a bigger role in Scott and defensive coordinator Tim Taffi’s defense, particularly after the departure of star linebacker and playmaker Kolaj Cobbins. 

“Jhase is going to be our Kolaj this year,” Scott said. “He’s going to be the guy. He has that experience. We’re looking for him to be a leader on and off the field. He’s a very, very versatile athlete.”

Aiden Schwab and Kyce White each recorded sacks for Destrehan in the timed quarter as well to help disrupt Karr drives. 

Offensively, it was the 10th day of spring work that the offense has put together since the departure of former defensive coordinator Greg Boyne since his move to become Hahnville head coach. 

With quarterback Jackson Fields returning and a wealth of weaponry at running back and receiver, the points figure to pile up in the fall, but Scott said for now, it’s a building process. 

“It’s a new system with new terminology. I thought the kids picked it up well during the spring and things should only get better from here,” Scott said.

 

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