by Madison Ruston // GeauxPreps.com Contributor
From their first day of flag football in kindergarten to their last padded practice as a senior, every boy looks forward to their football journey.
Many hope to win awards and championships throughout their young careers, with hopes to play at the next level. For a group of North DeSoto seniors, those are the exact goals they’re hoping to accomplish as they prepare to play their final game in Stonewall this Friday.
A majority of this senior class has played together on the same team since kindergarten. Countless games have been played in Griffin Stadium over the years. When talking to a few of the seniors, they all agreed playing for North DeSoto is a special privilege.
“North DeSoto is a special place. I have been in those stands since I could walk,” B.T. McMillan said. “I’ve missed one game since I was in Pre-K, it’s just something we do on Friday nights in Stonewall. This town and the environment is like no other. I will forever be thankful for what North DeSoto football has done for me.”
“Playing at North DeSoto is special because of the standard that has been set by past players and coaches along with a community that always supports our team,” Lake Bates said.
“It’s just one big family. Everybody supports one another and wants nothing but the best for each other,” Gage Caskey said.
These three seniors, McMillan, Bates, and Caskey are part of the core group that have been playing together since their flag football days. They are leaders of the team and are a major reason for the Griffins success.
Defensive coordinator Josh James had nothing, but praise to give for his two leaders on defense.
“B.T. and Lake are two of the best players I’ve had the opportunity to coach,” said James. “They are such an advantage to our defense. It’s like having two coaches on the field during the games. Being able to do what we do, is strictly because we have two field generals on the field.”
Coach James says their impact on the team will last long after they’re gone.
“It’s hard to put into words the impact they have made on this program. They aren’t just great football players, but they are both great young men. They are the mold of what we want a Griffin to be,” James said. “They are selfless, amazing teammates, and both have amazing work ethic in the classroom. Future Griffin football players will be able to look back and see these two young men have done it the right way all four years of the career here at ND.”
Part of Bates’ selflessness is when he made the transition from offense to defense when he got to high school. Coming up as a quarterback in his younger years, when he got to high school there was a bigger need on the defensive side of the ball and Bates wanted to be anywhere that he could help out.
“The biggest factor for the move was that I just wanted to contribute for the team, even if it wasn’t on the offensive side of the ball,” Bates said.
The move turned out to be a great thing. Last season Bates played in the shadows of Hunter Addison, who is now at Nicholls State continuing his football career. Bates said he learned a lot from Addison and that made him filling his role a lot easier.
“Hunter leaving really left a hole in the secondary, and after a year of getting to play alongside him I feel like it was just a natural transition where I was able to fill his past role,” said Bates.
Another selfless senior is Gage Caskey. Being an offensive lineman, you tend to get overlooked, but Caskey has no problem not getting his name called when his team is having success.
“As a lineman you know that your name isn’t going to be in headlines. But as long as Luke isn’t getting touched and can get the ball to our receivers and Kenny and Trysten are getting good running lanes then I won’t ever be upset,” Caskey said.
Running back coach Chris Wilson said Gage had a big impact on him as soon as he arrived at North DeSoto just a season ago.
“Gage has been my right hand man since I arrived on campus, the coaching staff told me that he was the leader and as a new coach, you have to get the leader on your side and we’ve pretty much been inseparable,” Wilson said. “We talk every morning before school. I make sure I hug him and tell him that I love him before every kickoff. He’s the type of kid that you love and gravitate towards because he’s coachable but he embodies who I am and what I want my players to be like on the field. Mean, Nasty but loves playing the game at a high level.”
All three boys agree that this senior class is more than just a group of teammates.
“My senior class is my brothers, they have been with me since the beginning. I will forever cherish the memories we have made on and off the field together,” McMillan said.
“They are my brothers. We have all grown up with each other and played on the same teams since preschool so you form a brotherly bond that can’t be broken,” said Caskey.
With this Friday night being their last time to ever touch the turf in Stonewall, the emotions will be there, but they’re all in agreement that there’s still a job to finish.
“This week just like any other week we will focus on the team in front of us. We just want another 48 minutes on the field,” said Bates. “But knowing this will be my last home game is definitely a weird feeling just knowing that so many years of football at North Desoto is so close to its end.”
“It will definitely set in eventually that this is my last game I will play on the field that I’ve played games on since 2010,” Caskey said. “But the mentality this week won’t change and we have to lock in and focus, everyone on the team has to have the “Jobs Not Finished” mentality all week and in every rep we take.”
Many years of football together created lots of memories. When asked what their favorite memory was most players and even coaches said beating Iowa last year to send them to the state championship was their favorite. There’s not a lack of championship mentality on this team as they’ve experienced it before.
Caskey said losing didn’t sit right with him and he turned the clock back to when this group of seniors had their first championship experience.
“I know most people on the team would probably say going to the Dome last year, but the jobs not finished and I want the big trophy,” said Caskey. “So in that case I would have to say my best memory from all these years is in 6th grade when we won our league championship against a team we lost to at the beginning of the season. What makes that really special is because my dad and many of our other dads were coaches and that’s just something that I will remember forever even if it was all those years ago.”
The Griffins made their first trip in school history to the Superdome last season. They came up just three points short of winning it all. This group of seniors has one goal in mind and that’s to finish what they started. 13 years of playing together has built them up for these final moments.
Though they hope Friday night won’t be the last game of their Griffins career, as they look to punch their ticket back to New Orleans when they host Opelousas is the semifinals, it’ll be a special and emotional night as a chapter of their Griffin careers comes to a close.