It’s a number that might not mean much on its surface, but for Destrehan’s senior class, it represents a truly unique statistic that few can lay claim to. This Friday’s state championship game will represent the 17th postseason game that the 2019 Wildcats’ freshmen went on to play over the course of their careers: five in a 2019 march to the championship game, four in 2020 and 2021 runs to the semifinals, and four in 2022 following a first-round bye.
This is a special group of winners.
“It’s definitely something we take a lot of pride in,” said Destrehan head coach Marcus Scott. “The kids now have that opportunity to get back to the championship game and finish it.”
Scott said a lot of what has driven the strong makeup of this group is its togetherness.
“They’ve been playing together since they were kids,” Scott said. “They’ve known each other inside and out. That helps a lot with camaraderie. It helps a lot with chemistry.”
Take seniors Jai Eugene and Daniel Blood, for example.
Blood has been a starter at wide receiver since his freshman year, Eugene at quarterback since his sophomore season. Their connection has gotten stronger as their time on the field together continued, culminating in an absolutely dominant season from the pairing.
Destrehan’s offensive starters did not see much of the field during the second half of games in the regular season, yet Blood has scored 16 touchdowns this season entering what will be his final game in a Destrehan uniform – 12 as a receiver and four on punt returns. He’s caught 27 balls for 590 yards and added 78 yards rushing thus far, with more likely to come – Scott said Blood, who missed the majority of last week’s game with injury, is feeling far better and will take the field Friday.
Eugene also had his finest season, and his progression from his junior year to his senior year has bolstered Destrehan’s offense into one of the state’s most explosive units. Eugene has only three interceptions, a low number similar to his total a year ago when the Wildcats were far more run oriented. This season, he’s accounted for 35 touchdowns – 12 on the ground, 23 through the air – 1,740 passing yards with 63-percent of his attempts completed – and 12 on the ground.
He’s always taken care of the ball, but a 23-3 touchdown to interception ratio while commanding an offense that averages over 40 points per game has helped put Destrehan in position to rarely be challenged at all this season.
“That’s what Jai does – he takes care of the ball,” Scott said. “He’s very smart and very instrumental to our success. When you talk about the amount of games we’ve played – we’re talking about only three turnovers last season as well – it’s pretty rare. It takes a lot of awareness to make sure not to put the ball in harm’s way.”
Destrehan’s offensive line has long been a strength of the program, and a senior-led group in 2022 has continued that tradition – when Destrehan has needed to dominate on the line of scrimmage, they’ve been up to the task. Seniors Christian Martin, Landry Cannon and Alexander Hamilton help lead the way.
Rushers Brandon Freeman and Trey Nixon and wide receiver Leslie Jefferson combined to score 16 times this season, a trio of seniors who have been vital all season.
On the defensive side of the ball, Amare Johnson, Tory Jolla and Rayquan Ducre have been key parts of a front seven that have kept rushing lanes closed and quarterbacks on alert all year. Linebacker Andrew Schaefer, meanwhile, made one of the season’s highlight defensive plays with his interception Week 8 against East St. John that summoned a tidal wave of momentum for his team.
And in the secondary, a veteran group has seen it all. Seniors Lynard Harris, Kevin Adams, Travon Thomas and Jacobi Green have powered a unit that’s made key stops and big plays all season long. In just the past two weeks alone, Adams, Harris and Green have intercepted passes, while Thomas came up with the most critical play of the season thus far with his deflection of a potential go-ahead two-point conversion in the quarterfinals against East St. John.
Experience matters, Scott said.
“When you look at the guys who are making these plays, in a lot of cases it’s the guys who have been there before,” said Scott.
Those are just a few of the seniors helping to drive the Wildcats, but all on the roster have much to be proud of.
And within a matter of several hours, all may also be able to call themselves state champion.