It will be a homecoming game of sorts for Woodlawn coach Daniel Luquet when his Panthers visit Destrehan Friday night.
Luquet, in his first season as WHS head coach, was a Destrehan assistant coach for eight years until departing for Woodlawn in 2013. He’s also a Destrehan alumnus who played under Robicheaux. After one year as Woodlawn’s offensive coordinator, he was named the team’s head coach.
Destrehan coach Stephen Robicheaux said that emotions are mixed as he prepares to host his former protégé’s team.
“When you talk about a guy who played for you and went through your program, who coached with you, and a close friend … whenever you play against someone like that, it’s a little different,” Robicheaux said. “But when it gets down to it on the field, it’ll be Destrehan versus Woodlawn. Obviously, I’m excited for Daniel. We all are. We know he’s going to do a tremendous job. But the most important thing is we go out and get a win.”
Luquet said the prospect of facing his old team is an exciting one.
“Destrehan has been a part of my life for my entire life,” Luquet said. “Everything I brought with me as a coach to Woodlawn I learned under coach Robicheaux, and also my father (Marty Luquet, who was the longtime baseball coach at Destrehan). I’m close with so many people there. My wife still teaches there. It definitely adds an element of excitement.”
He said it’s tough at times not to get a little crossed up while watching film.
“For four years as a player and eight years as a coach, I’ve looked at the other team’s colors and broke them down,” Luquet said. “Now, I’m watching film of them on the other side. But I’m enjoying the heck out of it.
“The one thing I know for sure is Destrehan makes you raise your level of play. We’ll have to be at the top of our game.”
While Woodlawn fell to Hahnville last week, the Panthers stood toe to toe with Destrehan archrival Hahnville for the game’s entirety. HHS outgained Woodlawn in yardage, 342 to 332, and Woodlawn led 14-10 in the fourth quarter before the Tigers scored consecutive touchdowns with less than six minutes left. Woodlawn’s night was highlighted by Malik Brady’s 50-yard interception return.
“We think Hahnville’s a good football team, and Woodlawn was up 14-10 on them in the fourth quarter, which tells you a little about them,” Robicheaux said. “They made a few mistakes that hurt them in the end, but there were right there. They do things the right way.”
Much like Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio noted last week, Robicheaux said a defensive concern against the Panthers is containing quarterback Jamari Nelson, a senior passer who triggers Luquet’s version of the “air raid” shotgun spread.
“I really like their quarterback,” Robicheaux said. “He’s good at getting the ball out to their playmakers in good position to do damage. He does a great job understanding what his team needs to do situationally. Their running back (Javin Meyers), he does a tremendous job as well. They’ve got a good corps of wide receivers. So we’ve got to be ready to play.”
Robicheaux said schematically, the Wildcats won’t likely see much that will surprise them. Luquet’s offense mirrors what Destrehan’s is under DHS offensive coordinator Greg Boyne.
“We see it every day in practice,” Robicheaux said. “It’s exactly the same offense for the most part. It goes both ways, they see it too, which makes this an interesting game.”
Luquet said he knows how dangerous Destrehan can be on its home field — where the Wildcats haven’t lost a game over the past two seasons — and a key for his team will be shaking off the effects of a wild atmosphere.
“The biggest thing for us is to not be overwhelmed,” Luquet said. “They have a tremendous homefield advantage. Their student section feels like they’re right on top of you, and they do a fantastic job.”
Last week, Destrehan saw a 26 point second half lead cut to three at Slidell Friday night, but held on for a 33-23 opening week victory.
Karon Taylor’s 23-yard touchdown run with 2:36 remaining in the game pushed Destrehan’s lead to 33-23 and, for all intents and purposes, put the game out of reach for the host Tigers.
Linebacker C.J. Prieto stripped a Slidell ballcarrier and returned the fumble 40 yards for a touchdown. Hunter Breit kicked two field goals. Kohen Granier connected with Justin Jefferson for a first half touchdown, while Chad Serrano’s 12-yard touchdown run provided Destrehan with another score.
“Obviously, when you go up 26-0 in the third quarter, you’d like to finish right there,” Robicheaux said.
“We didn’t get it done. All of a sudden, Slidell’s right back in it. On the flip side, you like to see how our kids responded after that happened.
“Our defense held when it needed to, and then offensively we go out, execute and put it away.”