Destrehan had a new voice on the sideline guiding the team last season as Marcus Scott took the program’s helm, succeeding Stephen Robicheaux. A Wildcats team that has made deep playoff runs commonplace brought high expectations into 2020, pandemic or no, and this team delivered in Scott’s first season as head coach, going 11-2 on the season. Those 11 wins representing a win streak from Week 2 of the season to the Class 5A semifinal round at Acadiana, where the DHS season finally came to an end.
Destrehan brings back 14 starters from a year ago, including eight on an offense that controlled the ball throughout 2020. Four offensive line starters provide cohesion, while a deep and talented group of playmakers offer big play potential. Defensively the team is less experienced than it’s been over the past two years, when the Wildcats represented one of 5A’s stingiest defensive teams. How able that group is to replicate its prior success will go a long way in determining whether Destrehan makes yet another run to the Superdome or close. Fans will get a close look Friday night, as Destrehan travels to Lutcher for jamboree action. JV kicks off at 6 p.m. and will be followed by varsity.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Scott said. “We try to schedule some tough games in the pre-district that will get us ready for district play and beyond. It’s a process that’s begun with the scrimmage and the jamboree upcoming, and it will keep building through the end of the season.”
Junior Jai Eugene and senior Ross Rogan competed during the spring and summer at quarterback, much as they did in the abbreviated lead up to the season a year ago. Eugene garnered most of the reps last year once the games began, but Rogan should see more time in 2021 – Eugene, who has received great attention from the college ranks as a potential defensive back, will see time in the Wildcats’ secondary this season, with Rogan picking up more time in his stead on offense.
The two bring different things to the table. Eugene, the son of the former LSU star of the same name, is ever dangerous with his legs, be it in extending a play or simply picking up big chunks of yardage himself on the run. Rogan is more of a traditional pocket passer who keeps the offense on the move with his arm.
“They will both play,” said Scott. “I see improvement from both guys from a year ago. Even last year, one thing they each did really well was take care of the ball. That’s a big thing for me. You can live with a punt. You can’t live with giving it to the other team on your side of the field.”
Joining them at quarterback are junior Patrick McNulty and sophomore Braden Fenerty.
This is a talented group, as was on full display during the Wildcats’ preseason scrimmage against John Ehret. The leader of the backfield is Shane Lee, who carved out a large role last year as a freshman – the rare first year player to do so with the Wildcats program.
“He can hit it between the tackles, but he can also catch it out the backfield,” Scott said. “He figures into the receiving game as well. He caught a touchdown in the scrimmage and showed that off. So, he’s a really versatile guy who can do a lot of things for us.”
Trey Nixon, Patrick LeBranch and Brandon Freeman join him in the backfield. LeBranch is a bigger back who can punish on inside runs. Nixon and Freeman are smaller and shiftier, and both made several strong runs in the scrimmage.
“We have four guys who we know can contribute,” Scott said.
Calvin Bullock and Daniel Blood are returning starters from a year ago, and both players offer big play ability. But it’s expected they’ll get a lot of help from a deep group at the position, including Caine Adams, Leslie Jefferson – who had a big spring game performance – Kerry Wilson, Luke Sparacello, Anthony Robinson and Dorian Smith.
“We figure to hopefully play between six and eight of them throughout the game,” Scott said. “We have a lot of guys who can help us in different ways. I think this group competes. These guys don’t mind getting out there and blocking on the perimeter. We just have to be a little more consistent in that area, but we have a group who works hard.”
A senior, Bullock brings height to the position at 6’4 and is an outstanding route runner. At 6’0 tall himself, Blood also has good size and track speed, a versatile weapon dangerous in all phases for his team.
“We’ll depend on those guys to make big plays,” Scott said. “Jefferson is another kid who has shown he can make big plays down the field.”
At tight end and H-back, Garrett Borne is the starter while Dylan Ward, Brecken DiLapi and Quintin Clark will all mix in.
This is one of the most experienced units on the Wildcats, with four of the five starters returning from a year ago.
Seniors Dontrel Wilright and Donovan Kimble lead this group, which also returns strong players in center Alexander Hamilton, a junior, and sophomore Landry Cannon, who Scott said has had a tremendous summer of work. Rounding out the starters will be a rotation between Christian Martin and Jayce Mitchell, with Colby Vicknair providing depth.
A breakout season from Cannon would be very promising for Destrehan, as he brings the most size to the group at 6’2, 350 lbs.
“Those guys being experienced like they are gives us a little more time in the passing game, and hopefully allows us to find balance in our approach,” Scott said. “The better your guys up front play, the better you have a chance to be.”
Steven Walker, Quintin Clark and Paul Brown, all seniors, anchor the Wildcats defense up front. Walker is a 6’2, 240-pound two-way defender who is very adept against both the pass and the run, and the Wildcats like to find ways to manufacture one-on-one blocking looks for him on passing downs to fully take advantage of his ability to pressure the quarterback. He is one of the defense’s leaders. Clark, who also plays tight end and H-back on offense, is athletically gifted and difficult to shut out of the backfield.
And the 6’0, 320 lb. Brown, Scott said, is one of the defense’s most indispensable players given his ability to control the middle of the line at tackle.
“They all have good first steps and they use their hands well,” Scott said. “Paul is probably the key up front. When you have that guy in the middle who can control those gaps, it frees up and allows everyone else to make plays.”
Kolaj Cobbins, a sophomore, is the fourth starter up front and Scott said he’s coming along well. Amare Johnson and Jairin McCall mix in as depth.
Patrick Rojas is a first-year starter as a junior, but he played some very valuable snaps last year down the stretch of the season. Senior Jermaine Stewart is also starting for the first time after proving to be one of the team’s strongest contributors on special teams last year.
“They’re very talented … both guys run sideline to sideline really well,” Scott said. “They’ve been making steady progress.”
Andrew Schaefer and Luke Berg should also see time at the position and provide depth.
This should be a Wildcats’ strength once again in 2021, a group of experienced ballhawks led by safeties Kevin Adams and Lynard Harris, two juniors who have each played major snaps since their freshman seasons.
“They played in the Dome as freshmen and got to the semifinals as sophomores. They’ve played a lot of football and bring that experience,” Scott said.
Junior Travon Thomas is a first-year starter who saw time in the postseason a year ago. Sophomore Tai Terrell shows promise at corner – he recorded an interception and pass breakup in the preseason scrimmage and saw several snaps matching up with one of the state’s best wideouts, Ehret’s Zavion Thomas. Safeties Jacobi Green and Josh Robinson are also key contributors, as is Anthony Robinson, a wide receiver on offense who is seeing more and more time at safety – as will Jai Eugene, crossing over from quarterback.
“Having experience here really helps you a lot. It simplifies things for your front,” Scott said.
Will Bryant has been the team’s reliable placekicker and returns again in that role, but more will be seen of him this season as he takes on punting duties as well. Daniel Blood will be a primary returner in the kicking game.