2020 Football Preview: Northeast Louisiana
By Cody Futrell // GeauxPreps.com Contributer
Editor’s note: This outlook is part of a series of region previews. Most regional teams are included. However, some may be missing due to schedule conflicts. We will add other teams as soon as we can.
DISTRICT 2-5A PREVIEW
It is no denying the District 2-5A championship goes through West Monroe. The Rebels have won district a record 24 straight seasons. West Monroe coming off a 10-3 campaign and a 5A quarterfinal appearance have to fill some gaps but have plenty of talent returning.
All-District fullback Cayden Pierce graduated and is now at Harding University while defensive back Brooks Miller ended his high school career second all-time in interceptions for the Rebels and now will move on to Baylor.
The entire offensive line and tight end Rylan Green (offered by UL-Monroe) return up front along with second-year starting quarterback Lane Little and running back Derone Williams. Williams was the leading rusher last season with over 1,300 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Defensively the Rebels sport the top punter in the country in LSU commit Payton Todd. Todd is also a leading returning tackler playing outside linebacker.
The most experienced wide receiver returning is Matt McAllister who had just 3 catches in 2019 but has continued to gain attention this summer as a budding star that will garner college offers soon.
The Ruston Bearcats return one of the district’s most potent offenses led by running back Ke’Trevion Hargrave who rushed for over 1,000 yards as a junior. Ruston went 7-6 last season and reached the quarterfinals of the 5A playoffs.
The Ouachita Lions were tripped up in the first-round by Haughton who went on the make the 5A semifinals before losing to Destrehan. Ouachita is led by senior quarterback Zach Shaw who is poised for a breakout season and could be in conversation for top quarterback in the district by season end. Dearrio Jacob is a senior and returning target at wide receiver for the Lions.
At West Ouachita, Matt Middleton is in his second year leading the Chiefs back into 5A football where WOHS was a playoff team a year ago. The running game will have a wealth of new faces competing for playing time but the passing game is coming along led by Brady Rawls under center for the Chiefs along with a lot of experienced hands to throw the ball to including junior Mason Cobb and senior Mark Allen.
On defense, West Ouachita has its most experience in the front seven led by linebackers Haikeem Buckley and Jacob Spradin.
DISTRICT 2-4A PREVIEW
District 2-4A is a wide-ranging behemoth ranging across north Louisiana these days, but the district crown goes directly through Forsythe Ave. in Monroe.
The Neville Tigers have not only ruled the district for more than a decade, the Tigers have claimed four state championships in 11 years and made numerous runner-up and semifinal finishes under coach Mickey McCarty,
The future of McCarty is uncertain right now as he has applied to be principal at Neville and would step down as head coach in that event, but the Tigers come off another 4A semifinal appearance and have plenty of talent to make another run.
The offense is in new hands with junior quarterback Brett Batteford but experience abounds with senior running back Timothy Byrd and junior offensive tackle Will Campbell. Campbell is one of the top Class of 2022 prospects in the country with 4-stars by the major recruiting services such as Rivals and 247sports. Campbell already has scholarship offers from Alabama, Auburn, Baylor, Arkansas, Arizona State and many more.
The Neville offensive line will be huge with at least two starters at 6-6 are bigger. Breaux LaCroix is another one to watch. The sophomore offensive tackle is already standing at 6-7 and 315 lbs.
At Bastrop, the Rams are coming off a strong 9-3 season with senior quarterback Quadarrius Scott stepping into the starting role.
Senior wideouts Jabez Thompson and Sema Tennant will be the top targets while the defensive backfield has the most experience on defense with safety Denim Hill returning for his senior season.
Franklin Parish has new leadership in Sonny Nasson. Nasson comes from Crossett (Ark.) where he served as head coach and Nasson has also been head coach at General Trass and a longtime assistant for state title teams at Bastrop in the past.’
Nasson will be bringing his spread offense from his stops to Winnsboro and it will be quite the adjustment to a program predicated on option power runs for the last decade or more.
“We are trying to put the pieces together on offense and defense,” Nasson said. “I was only here for five days in the spring before things got shut down. We started back June 8 like everybody else. I like our work ethic and the willingness to show up at 6:30 a.m. We will have competition at all the skill positions.”
The offensive line has two returning starters in junior Devon Tabor and sophomore Eli Foster. Foster is a 6-6 left tackle that will be counted on heavily to protect the next quarterback in this new offense. Tabor is returning from a hip injury as one of many Patriots that missed time in 2019 with injury.
Senior Terrance Richardson and sophomores Gauge Spinks and Bryce Curtis will be in a fall battle for reps at quarterback.
Damarion Carter came out from the basketball team this spring and he will take some reps at quarterback but is likely to see playing time at wide receiver and cornerback.
“The challenge is adjusting the wide receivers who have been blocking 90 percent of the time,” Nasson said. “Now they are expected to run routes and catch the football. We are looking for a point man at quarterback. Someone that is comfortable back there.”
Franklin Parish returns six starters on defense including linebacker Josh Kemp and safety Demetric Whitlock along with junior defensive linemen Mario Whitley and Rashard Boley.
DISTRICT 2-3A PREVIEW
The Sterlington Panthers have not only been the class of District 2-3A for the last couple of years, but one of the top programs in all of Louisiana.
With a 2A state championship in 2016, a 3A state runner-up in 2018 and a quarterfinals appearance last season, the Panthers consistently play at a high level,
Coach Lee Doty describes this year’s team as “Young but competitive” as the team must replace Division I signee Hayes Crockett at quarterback (UL-Monroe) and most of its offensive skill weapons.
Zach Crain will step in at running back. The senior got some playing time last year and is now in his fourth year with Sterlington. Also a long time backup, senior Grant Mangham will go under center for the Panthers.
“(Mangham) will be able to step in, he is very coachable,” Doty said. “Our kids expect to win. They have bought into (the program) and our community really supports us and me as a football coach, and there are things expected here.”
The Panthers are quite young on defense with only four returning starters in Jordan Doaty, Colin Foy, Parker Coley and Cole Thompson.
“We will not be very big, but we will be able to run on defense,” Doty said. “We can run and tackle.”
At Union Parish, the Farmers are also no stranger to deep playoff runs and experience abounds on offense starting with quarterback Trent Ginn (Sr.) and running back Treyvion Holly (Soph.).
A state championship in 2013 and numerous district titles along with a semifinal appearance last season are part of one heck of a run at the helm for head coach Joe Spatafora.
Some key pieces on defense that helped Union go 9-5 have graduated but returning key pieces include senior defensive back Keywun Hill and senior linebacker Hayden Edwards.
Former Bastrop head coach and long time NELA assistant Marcus Yanez was recently named head coach at Richwood High School.
The coach has hit the ground running trying to develop his program in the image of a two time state champion winning program he helped shape at Bastrop.
“We started workouts this summer with everybody excited,” Yanez said. “We then had one kid test positive for COVID-19 and that made some players and parents hesitant so the numbers went down. But the guys showing up are the ones I know I can count on.”
Offensive lineman Kingston Davis is a Division I prospect up front for the Rams. The offense will also have a three-year starter at quarterback in Michael Sherman.
“The kids have adapted and responded well (to the new system),” Yanez said. “Some guys did not and we had to dismiss them from the program. It is a process and we have to have guys commit and everybody get on one page.”
Defensively, the Rams are led by CJ Henderson at defensive back. Henderson will also play some wide receiver in 2020 and is a Texas Southern commit. Linebacker Wesley Williams is the senior leader up front and is getting interest from UL-Monroe.
“(Williams) is a guy that leads by example,” Yanez said. “If he can take ownership and the guys will listen to him.”
Carroll is under second year coach Alex Washington while Maurice Pollard comes back to the area to coach Wossman,
Carroll went 6-4 last season, losing to Jennings in the first-round of the playoffs. Quarterback Edarrius Goldsmith is back for his junior year along with experienced targets at wide receiver like senior Antonio Hollis and senior Emontae Brown.
At Wossman, Pollard will be busy implanting his system into the program and running the football should be in good hands with senior running back Jessie Booker.
Quarterback Antrell Green also returns and the defense will be led by cornerback Zayvion Straughter and defensive end Jahorous Turner.
DISTRICT 2-2A PREVIEW
Ferriday became not only the kings of District 2-2A but ascended the throne of the 2A ranks for Louisiana a year ago with the schools first football state championship with a 14-1 record.
The Trojans will have a lot of new faces on offense but the general is back on defense.
All-District linebacker Larin Stampley returns for his senior season. One of the top tacklers a year ago for the Trojans, Stampley once again is poised for a big season.
The quarterback and running back positions will be up for grabs with Da’minya Milligan, following in the footsteps of former back Byron Milligan, is likely to lead the backfield. Junior Jaquarius Davis and sophomore Chavo Thomas Jr. will also vie for carries.
At Mangham, the Dragons are looking to build on a 9-3 season in Scott Wilcher’s first year at the helm that lead to a second round playoff appearance.
Experience abounds at Mangham where the team sports 20 seniors in one of its largest senior classes in recent memory.
Quarterback Phillip Pleasant leads the way with Cam Wilmore expected to carry the load at running back. A couple of returning wide receivers in JT Smith and Tae Gayden give the Dragons plenty of weapons with Friday night experience.
The Dragons will have all-district lineman Chase Underwood paving the way up front. Underwood has been getting plenty of recruiting attention from the likes of McNeese State, Nicholls State and Mississippi College this offseason.
On defense, linebacker Joe Williams and Casey Neilson as well as defensive ends Donte Straughter and Josh Uchtmann are ready for breakout seasons.
At General Trass High, Coach Toriano Wells is looking to get his team back to the playoffs after a 6-5 campaign and going 3-3 in district play.
The Panthers have nine returning starters on defense including linebacker Warren Walker.
On offense, a lot of experience is back including two-year starting quarterback Wydett Williams and senior wide receivers Jamarion Steward and Jar’Vae Campbell. Junior wideouts like Jalarrion Newsome and J’Wun Turner are expected to give the offense plenty of big play ability in 2020.
“Our team strength will be on defense,” Wells said. “We have nine back there. We want to capitalize this year on being able to finish ball games.”
The bottom of the district in 2019 featured only one team, Vidalia at 3-8, to reach postseason play. Rayville went 4-6 last season and returns running back Jalon Qualls as well as senior cornerback Savion Square and junior linebacker Jordan Debose.
Delhi Charter is coming off a 3-7 season and trio of senior leaders in quarterback Kameron Wicker, wide receiver Terry David and defensive end James Thomas.
Beekman Charter was 4-6 in 2019 while Vidalia finished 3-8 and Madison wound up 1-9.
At Beekman Charter, senior wide receiver Riley Mardis and senior linebacker Scott McMath are some of the top returning talent.
For Vidalia, the offense is in good hands with senior quarterback Brett Walsworth and running back Christian Davis.
Madison will look to rebound in the district standings lead by senior linebacker Jailynn Puckett and defensive end Janorris Larry defensively. The offense has plenty of senior leadership as well in quarterback D’Marjae Johnson and senior wideouts Greg Medley and Kemond Anderson.
DISTRICT 2-1A PREVIEW
Only one district can boast two football state champions in 2019 and District 2-1A is just as formidable in 2020.
Ouachita Christian had a record setting Dome performance in December in the Division IV title game on its way to a fifth school state title and Oak Grove romped its way to the Class 1A championship.
OCS returns Championship game MVP quarterback Hunter Herring (UL-Lafayette commit) who is an all-state prospect in both football and baseball.
Tristan Wiley at wide receiver and Dillon Duggan at running back (replacing all-district RB Will Fitzhugh who graduated) will be top playmakers as well.
On defense, the Eagles will be led by Chris Holyfield and Henry Messenger on the defensive line with Landon Graves (a sophomore) returning as one of the area’s best cornerbacks. Graves also plays wide receiver for the Eagles.
OCS has three linebacker positions to fill but the talent pool is there with as many as 18 returning players with varsity experience.
“We have a lot of good leadership coming back,” OCS coach Steven Fitzhugh said. “They joined in with our seniors last year when they were juniors and showed great leadership. This is a close knit group and they will carry on the standard that we have set because of their love for one another.”
Oak Grove will be attempting to win its fourth state title, and the Tiger seniors have their sights set on being the first Oak Grove group to win back-to-back titles.
Deuce Clement makes the move from running back to quarterback with returning Ron Craten, the offensive MVP of the 1A title game, in the backfield as well. A pair of talented wide receivers will be targets in Bud Holloway and Dalton Allen.
“We always think we have a chance, and we have a lot of three-year starters back,” Oak Grove coach Ryan Gregory said. “These guys are looking to do something special (repeat as champions).”
On the defensive front, the Tigers replace a pair of Division I signees in Burt Hale (Kansas) and Keenan Caldwell (Louisiana Tech). Clement, Holloway and Dalton are expected to play both ways while Bryson Baker and Reed Milligan are two new faces to watch on the defensive line.
St. Frederick is in its third-year in the Andy Robinson era. Robinson, a former 5A assistant at Ouachita and Ruston, led the Warriors to a 6-5 record last season.
The team returns 9 starters, including 5 on defense. Defensive end Beau Bennett will lead the way as Robinson believes he is “one of the top 5 players in our area”. Bennett will be joined by juniors Tremain Cleveland and Jeramaiah Willis leading the defensive line. At defensive back, Chris Bell is poised for a breakout season.
“Bennett is a big guy that can play a number of positions,” Robinson said. “He is getting looks from Southern Miss and most of the state schools. Not being able to go to any camps (due to COVID-19) hurt him. They don’t know how good he looks or how well he moves except seeing him on tape.”
Senior Alex Rightsell will step into the quarterback role and running back Nelson Sparks at running back will be a playmaker.
The Cedar Creek Cougars went 7-4 last season and could be ready to compete for the top of the district standings. Coach Shannon Brown has 13 returning starters (6 offense, 7 defense) led by running back/wide receiver J.T. Stevens and four returning starters on the offensive line. A new quarterback leads the charge in Brady Menzina.
Brady Raspberry at safety will be a playmaker on defense as a senior as well as linebackers Carson Riley and Quincey Lewis.
Delta Charter went 4-8 in their first-year in this district in 2019. The Chargers made some noise early on and will have one of the most exciting running backs returning in Tre Griffin.
The bottom of the district and battle for a playoff spot will be between Delhi (4-5 in 2019), Sicily Island (3-7) and Tensas (0-10).
New to the LHSAA ranks is former MAIS playoff team River Oaks, another Monroe-area private school off of Highway 165.
River Oaks will move into this district in 2021 but this year play a limited LHSAA schedule including a couple of games with a varsity vs JV dynamic.
“Scheduling and having less travel was something our board looked at,” River Oaks coach Robert Hannah said when deciding to move into the LHSAA. “We are excited to get started. We don’t know hardly anything about the teams we will play except what we see on film.”
The Mustangs are led by running back Ousman Amadou, a junior, and DB/WR Nick Parrino. Hunter Ashbrook at center has the chance to develop into a solid 1A lineman and Miguel Gonzalez will play both ways at wideout and defensive back.