By Jerry Byrd, Jr. // Football Country Magazine
Editor’s note: 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 1-5A PREVIEW
With 6-1 records in district 1-5A play last season, Airline and Captain Shreve were co-champs of the district, but it was the Haughton Buccaneers who made the biggest splash in the LHSAA playoffs.
Jason Brotherton’s Haughton team knocked off Ouachita, Comeaux, and Mandeville before losing to state-runner up Destrehan 27-17 in the semifinals.
“It was fun to see the whole community rally behind a great group of kids,” Brotherton said. “It was a little more special for us as coaches because there were 7 or 8 kids on the team who are coaches’ kids. They have grown up around the program–in the locker room. That added a little something special to the season we had.”
Haughton’s first team all-district quarterback, Peyton Stovall, returns this year, but lost to graduation are sure-handed wide receivers C.J. McWilliams (LA Tech), Tristan Sweeney, and tight end Matthew Whitten (Southern Arkansas, who were all first team all-district selections.
“Stovall is a natural leader for us,” Brotherton said. “He has been the starter for us since he was a sophomore. He is going to have to shoulder more responsibilities this year, but we have confidence in him. He has played in a lot of games at Haughton.”
On the defensive side, the Bucs lose sack master Khaylon Chapple, who started the season with bang, recording six sacks in the first half of the first game against Red River. Chapple is taking his talents to McNeese State University, however, defensive coordinator Gary Smith still has capable Bucs on that side of the ball including linebacker Jake St. Andre, who was a first team all-district selection. St. Andre recorded 145 tackles including 17 tackles for loss and five sacks in 2019 for a defense which gave up an average of 14.6 points per game.
“If he has anywhere near the season he has had the past two years, he will leave Haughton as the all-time tackles leader,” Brotherton said of St. Andre. “He is another one of the coach’s kids, who is super smart and a great leader.”
Last season, Haughton, who finished the season at 11-3, had a coming out party week two against East Ascension. EA was coming off a week one win over defending state champion Zachary. It wasn’t just that Bucs knocked off one of the top five teams in 5A. It was the manner in which they did it, rolling up 41 points of offense and only giving up 23 points to the Spartans, who only lost one other game (Catholic-BR) during the regular season.
Brotherton knew before the week two win against East Ascension that the 2019 Bucs were going to be something special.
“That was the freshmen group when I took over as head coach,” Brotherton said. “It was a four-year build and we could tell there was something special about them by the way they handled their business in the off season that they were going to do some great things.”
The Bucs lost a coach in the off season as special teams coordinator, Matthew Sewell, moved to South Bossier to join Parkway’s new head coach, Coy Brotherton, the brother of his former boss.
“I saw that coming as soon as Coy got the job,” Brotherton said. “Coach Sewell is a great young coach. He is going to be a head coach one day. We hate to lose him, but if other schools aren’t coming and trying to get your assistant coaches it probably means that they aren’t very good. That hasn’t been the case here.”
The Bucs return five starters on offense and five starters on the defense. And while Brotherton would have loved to have a spring to evaluate some young talent–especially on the offensive side of the ball, there is no looking back.
“The thing about it (shut down) has affected everyone the same,” Brotherton said. “Right now, we’re just worried about getting in shape. We have two and half months until we play a game. We don’t want to overload them. Hopefully, between now and then we will figure out the young kids who will be able to play for us.”
Heading into the 2019 season, everyone was talking about the favorites in District 1-5A–Haughton and Captain Shreve. Somebody forgot to tell Bo Meeks and his Airline Vikings, who were coming off a 3-7 season in 2018.
Airline, who finished the season with a ten win season and was–by far– the most improved team in the district, knocked off the Bucs 22-19 on October 11th. In that game, defensive coordinator Seth Stowell’s shout out Haughton in the first, second, and fourth quarters. However, after giving up 19 in the third quarter, Airline trailed by five heading into the final frame.
Receiver Daniel Smith got loose on a 55-yard jail screen breaking numerous
tackles to give the Vikings the victory….and a share of the 1-5A title.
The Vikings lone blemish in district came at home on a muddy track against the Byrd Yellow Jackets. The only non-district loss came at the hands of a strong Ruston team.
For the first time in four years, the Vikings will be without the Marshall twins in the defensive secondary. Also gone from the press box will be their defensive coordinator, Stowell, who moved into administration at Airline during the off season.
Once in the playoffs, Airline made some noise before losing at home to eventual state champion Acadiana in the quarterfinals.
“Looking back, I think the big thing is that the players made up their mind they were going to work hard and be mentally tough enough to be great,” Meeks, the District 1-5A 2019 Coach of the Year, said.
“Nobody gave us a chance last year because we only won three ball games the year before,” Meeks said. “I had a good feeling going into the season because I knew that five of our seven losses were by 10 points or less and I saw the way they were working in the off season.”
This year, the Vikings return the 2019 District Offensive MVP in quarterback Alex Garcia as well as five other starters. Garcia completed 206 passes on 372 attempts for 2,745 yards.
Defensively, Brian Taylor, the former head coach at Southwood High School who has been coaching the Airline secondary for several years, will take over Stowell. Only three starters return on the defense, but two of those were first team all-district selections–defensive lineman Devarrick Woods and linebacker Fred Manning. Tracy Hudson, who is the only returning starter in the secondary, is also back.
At this point, Meeks and his staff are focused on making the most of every rep to get his team ready for the season.
“We missed 25 opportunities to get better at football, but so did everyone else,” Meeks said. “I think the most important thing is to make sure we are getting quality work at this point. It’s what we are telling our kids. Every rep matters. That’s what it boils down to.”
The District 1-5A Championship was decided on the final game of the season. The Captain Shreve Gators had chance to win the title outright, but lost to Airline 21-14, thus sharing the title with the Vikings. Despite the loss, it was a historic run for head coach Bryant Sepulvado and his Gators. It marks the first time in school history the Gators have been district champions in District 1-5A.
Captain Shreve got there after facing some adversity early on in the season. The Gators lost their leader on defense, linebacker Gerron Hargon. Hargon, who signed with Rice University, went down with a knee injury during an early season game against Woodlawn.
“It was a whole team effort,” Sepulvado said of Captain Shreve’s memorable run. “We lost some players to injury, but we had others who stepped up for us. It was just the mentality of the group.”
The success was not unexpected as Sepulvado and his coaches watched the senior-laden group grow and mature during their time at Shreve.
With losing so many seniors, Sepulvado and his coaches have some holes to fill–especially on defense where they lost all 11 starters from a year ago.
Offensively, the Gators will break in a new offensive coordinator–Jared Little, who comes to the Swamp after serving as an assistant coach at Ruston High School. Little will lean on junior Kendrick Law Jr., who–despite not getting to showcase his skills in Spring football or on the track–had a nice spring being flooded with offers from Division I programs. And, rightfully so. Law was one of the most electric players in Northwest Louisiana.
“He is the complete package,” Sepulavado said. “He is a coaches’ kid who is the first one in the weight room and the last one to leave. He is built like a Greek God.”
At quarterback, Sophomore Ashton Martin, the son of former Louisiana Tech quarterback Jason Martin, will take over full-time this season after winning the job and starting two games as a freshman.
“We fully expect him to get more comfortable this year, and make the natural progression that young quarterbacks make with arm strength, decision making, and understanding the concepts in the offense,” Sepulvado said.
And as far as the defense is concerned?
“Its worrisome to not have a starter back,” Sepulvado said. “However, many of the guys who end up starting saw valuable reps last year. I still like the group, they just don’t have the experience we would like for them to have.”
Missing a spring didn’t help.
“It’s a different time in high school football right now,” Sepulvado said. “I feel more like a secretary and nurse than I do a football coach with all of the measures and precautions we have to take just to have a workout. But, it’s important. Keeping our kids healthy is my number one priority. Football is secondary.”
Sepulvado wasn’t the only District 1-5A coach to lose an offensive assistant to another district school.
The C.E. Byrd Yellow Jackets lost long-time offensive coach James Wilkerson III to Natchitoches Central, where he gets his first head coaching role. On the field, Byrd head coach Mike Suggs will have to replace quarterback Cameron Felt, who was starting at The City of Byrd before he could legally drive. Junior Logan Pons is projected as the starter.
“He had to start a game last year when Camerson was hurt,” Suggs said. “That was a good experience for him. Obviously, when you are breaking in a new quarterback you want to have that spring with them, but a lot of other teams are in the same boat. He has a good grasp of the offense, and I think he will do fine.”
The Byrd offense returns six starters including William Berry, Venzell Thompson, Josh Courtney, Bobby Simpson, and Kellum Humphrey.
Suggs is hoping those leaders can help prevent some of the mental mistakes that plagued the Jackets early, causing an 0-4 start.
“Usually, we play well early,” Suggs said. “Last year was just a different year. We talked about it. When we were doing what we were supposed to do, we played well against all of those teams.”
Of course most teams would start out 0-4 if they played the likes of Brother Martin, Calvary, West Monroe, and Haughton.
On the defense, the Jackets return seven starters, including three players who have started every game since their sophomore year, including Louisiana Tech commit Carson Bruno.
“He came in the program and had good size,” Suggs said. “He has worked hard and gotten stronger and faster. We’re really expecting some good things out of him this season.”
Bruno has played exclusively on the defensive line for the Jackets, but is expected to play on the offensive line at Louisiana Tech. He could play some along the offensive line for Byrd this season. Bruno’s father is Byrd’s offensive line coach, and former Northwood head coach, Lindsey Bruno.
In the first round of the LHSAA Divison I playoffs, the Jackets had St. Augustine on the ropes late, but were unable to deliver a knockout punch. The Purple Knights stormed back eliminating the Jackets from the playoffs.
A Class 5A newcomer in 2019, the Benton Tigers are determined to overcome so growing pains in head coach Reynold Moore’s eighth season.
It seems as though Moore is on the right track with the Tigers returning six starters on offense and seven on defense. In total, Benton returns 25 players from last year’s squad that finished 5-6 overall.
“Our defense should carry us all year and give the younger offense a chance to find a rhythm early on,” said Moore. “Both the offensive and defensive lines will be the strength of our team.”
Some of the top players returning for the Tigers are linebacker Ashur Hall (4.6 40-yard) and defensive lineman Cade Waites (4.9 40-yard). Other impact players include David Sellers (DE/TE), Evan Cole (ATH), RJ Moore (K/P), E.J. Washington (DL).
The Parkway Panthers are under new leadership this season with Coy Brotherton at the helm. Brotherton arrives at Parkway after stops at Haughton as an assistant and Plain Dealing as a head coach.
Brotherton inherits a program that returns seven starters on both sides of the ball as well as star senior quarterback, Gabe Larry, who threw for over 1,100 yards last season.
“Gabe is an athletic quarterback that plays three sports and we expect him to be a great leader,” said Brotherton. “We have 27 total seniors returning and a young class coming up that should build the future of this program.”
Connor Norcross, a senior linebacker, returns to anchor the defense after finishing with 96 total tackles last season.
James Wilkerson III returns to Natchitoches where he takes over the football program at Natchitoches Central. Wilkerson, who previously was the head coach at St. Mary’s school will have his work cut out for him on the offensive side with only four starters returning while the defense brings six of its starters back from the 2019 season.
“Our goal is to continue on last year’s team,” said Wilkerson. “We will use our defense as our strength until the offense has a chance to develop. We have a lot of athletes on the field and a good returning core of players.”
Some of the top talent that the Chiefs will have are seniors Jaiden hare (DE), Ferman Walker (LB) and Jalen Wilson (WR/TE).
In other coaching changes in District 1-5A, Dean Smith, the former head coach at Wossman High School, is the new head coach at Southwood.
DISTRICT 1-4A PREVIEW
Minden Crimson Tide head coach Spencer Heard considered last year’s 7-4 campaign a successful season playing in a loaded District 1-4A with perennial powers like Neville and Bastrop. Heard had some seniors on the squad who were flexible and moved around quite a bit, including running back Lieric Robinson who tied the Crimson Tide’s record for touchdowns in a game with five in week nine against Huntington.
The following week, Robinson set the record outright with a six touchdown performance against Franklin Parish.
Those performances had long-time Minden fans talking about the mid-1980s and a Crimson Tide backfield with Raymond Tate, who held the record before it was broken by Robinson, and Anthony Douglas.
Minden lost Robinson to graduation, but Heard is excited about the crop of running backs who will fill the void, including junior Kentravion Lister (5’9, 210).
“He is really good,” Heard said. “Last year, he played in the slot for us, but he is more of a pure-type running back who we will feature in some two-back sets.”
Two other running backs Minden will lean on is Daylen Robinson and R.J. Dillard.
It’s one of the most talented groups of running backs that Heard has ever coached.
At quarterback, senior Trenton McLaughlin returns for his third year as a starter for an offense that returns eight starters.
Defensively, Jaylen Green (6’3, 270) is the “heartbeat” of a unit which returns seven starters.
“He is a hard worker,” Heard said, “and extremely consistent. He is trustworthy and leads the defense by example.”
Heard was hoping to get a spring practice in to fill the holes left by the loss of two three-year starters at the linebacker position. He is hoping that some of the talent at running back will be able to plug some holes on the defensive side of the ball.
“I’ve got a gut feeling that we are going to be a good football team,” Heard said. “We have several returning starters who are familiar with what we are doing schematically. However, with all of the unknowns about the season, it is a bit disconcerting.”
You would be hard pressed to find a coach more excited about the 2020 season than Huntington Raider’s head coach Stephen Dennis. After a successful season last year that saw the Raiders knock on the door of District 1-4A, they look to kick it in this year. And they have the personnel and coaching staff to do it.
It starts with quarterback Je’rell Joseph.
“He started the last four games his sophomore year,” Dennis said, “and had success last year. I look for him to have a big year. He is a phenomenal young man with a great work ethic. To watch him mature from the growing pains he had early on during his career, and see what he has become–it has been incredible.”
Protecting Joseph will be the first commitment in Louisiana Tech’s 2021 recruiting class–Erron Bean. Bean started out on the defensive line for the Raiders. When Dennis changed the defense from a 4-2-5 to 3-3 stack, Bean moved to the offensive line where he has shined.
“He is 6’6 and 280 pounds,” Dennis said. “When he made the move he really attacked the position and had a great attitude about it. He has those intangibles you like to see in offensive lineman where they know how to instinctively work up to the next level.” Bean
On the defensive side of the ball, the Raiders are led by “The President”–Edward Clark.
Clark has earned the title by being nearly perfect–on the field and in the classroom–for the Raiders. He has earned trips to Washington D.C., a membership into the National Honor Society, and G.P.A. of 4.49. On the football field, he is a two-time All-District selection who will leave Raspberry Ln. as one of Huntington’s all-time leading tacklers.
“When you record 50 tackles as a true freshman and then are named to the all-District team two years in a row,” Dennis said, “you put yourself up there with the best to ever do it around here.”
Huntington enjoyed their first trip to the playoffs in ten years. The drawback to that success is that they are not going to sneak up on anyone in 2020.
Woodlawn Knights’ head coach C.J. learned a lot in his first year as a head coach in 2019.
“When you think you are prepared,” Byrd said, “you need to prepare some more.”
That was the biggest lesson he learned after taking over for Jerwin Wilson, who moved to the college coaching ranks.
Despite not winning a district game, Byrd is optimistic about his Knights going into year two.
“We were competitive in almost all of our games,” Byrd said. “Many times it was the little things–like penalties–that prevented us from having success.”
Byrd has seven starters on the returning including big-time wide receiver Brian Stewart, quarterback Delatvion Moton, and offensive lineman Desmond Pennywell, who recently received an offer from Northwestern State University.
While Pennywell will lead the offensive linemen on the field, Byrd brought in Jacoby Thierry to coach his offensive lineman. He is excited about what he has seen thus far.
“I’m very impressed with what I have seen thus far,” Byrd said. “They are working hard to get those first steps right and proper hand placement. I’m just excited to see the impact that Coach Thierry will have on this group.”
Defensively, Woodlawn returns six starters including Ja’quavis Richmond, who will play a hybrid linebacker/safety position and Terrell Wilso, who will play rover for the Knights.
“Wilson led our defense in forced turnovers,” Byrd said. “He is always around the ball. Both he and Richmond were second team all-district last year. They are both tremendous leaders.”
The Northwood Falcons look to continue their recent success and begin a new chapter in Blanchard with first-year head coach Austin Brown.
Denny Duron, who along with Johnny Booty, started the Evangel program and will replace state championship winning coach Byron Dawson, who has moved to New Orleans where he will join the staff of the Tulane Green Wave. Pastor Duron was unavailable when GeauPpreps.com attempted to contact him last week.
Duron will see a familiar face across the sidelines when the Evangel Eagles face North Desoto, led by former Evangel coach Dennis Dunn. Dunn returned to Northwest Louisiana a year ago after coaching spending a few years in the central part of the state at Pineville High School.
North DeSoto finished 4-6 overall last season but look to bring a strong attack to its foes in 2020. The Griffins return nine offensive starters after only losing 11 letterman total.
Dunn and his staff stated that they will be more experienced on each side of the ball. That determination is a primer for a strong performance on the field and a shot at a district title.
On offense, Kelvin Kinney (1,619 passing yards in 2019) returns as quarterback while dual-threat athlete David Atkins (362 rushing yards and 668 receiving yards) looks to make an impact in 2020.
Other top returners include Kevin Mijares (K), Kydre Clark (DE), Derobieyaw Atkins (WR/DB), Brad Gibson (OL) and Gary Kappleman (DL/OL)
Booker T. Washington finished the season with a 2-7 record in 2019.
DISTRICT 1-3A PREVIEW
The Green Oaks Giants just keep moving up in District 1-3A. 2020 should be no different as the Giants return Keith “Boom” Baker at quarterback and the LSU commit DeColdest Crawford, who is only a junior, at wide receiver.
“He is only 2,700 yards away from 10,000 yards,” Green Oaks head coach Terrence Isaac Sr. said of his quarterback. “We are excited about the opportunity he has to break that record.” Baker threw for 2,500 yards as a sophomore and was just under that mark in 2019.
Overall, the Giants enjoyed unprecedented success last season making it to the quarterfinals before losing to St. James, who went on to win the state title, at Independence Stadium.
“It was a great experience for our team,” Isaac said. “It’s been over twenty years since Green Oaks made it that far. I think playing a well-oiled machine like St. James helped us see what we have to do to play for a championship.”
As far as a district championship is concerned, Isaac and his Giants came up short, losing to Loyola after leading 21-7.
“We took our foot off the gas,” Isaac said. “We haven’t stopped talking about it. Deep down we know we should have won that game and it is a goal of ours to win the district championship this year.
The offense returns seven starters, including Jame’is Sanders, a workhorse running back who did it all for the Giants.
“He is tough as nails,” Isaac said. “He can run over you, run around you, pick up blitzes, and catch passes out of the backfield. Despite not getting the recognition of some of Keith and DeColdest, he is the one who makes our offense go.”
Other returning starters on offense include Terrence Isaac Jr. and Deon Jackson.
Isaac admits that having his son on the team has made the success that he has had at Green Oaks all the more memorable.
“It’s been a joy to go through this process with him,” Isaac said. “He bounced back after his knee injury to be first team all-district and second team all-city last year. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
On the defensive side, Isaac has to replace nine starters, including linebacker three-star linebacker Joseph Mason, who signed with Louisiana Tech. Fellow linebacker Jaylon Moore, who has 12 offers, is one of the two returning starters for the Giants.
Isaac expects 1-3A to be tough again.
“You can not take a week off in our district,” Isaac said. “It always seems to come down to the last play of the game when we face Loyola. Mansfield is always well coached. North Webster is always a close game.”
Not only did Loyola lose their head coach Steven Geter to private business, but they also lost defensive coordinator Dillon Jackson who moved over to South Bossier to take the reins of Parkway’s defense.
Bossier Bearkat head coach Michael Concillio looks at last year’s improvement as a card game.
“It was nice to play with the cards we were dealt,” Concillio said.
Concillio was referring to years past when some of his top players, who live in the Bossier High School district, would transfer and play for other schools.
One his aces a year ago was Decamerion Richardson. New Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach paid a visit to Bearkat Drive and then signed Richardson to be a Bulldog. Richardson is listed as a sleeper in Lindy’s Sports Southeastern College Football Preview, but Concillo fully expects “Dcam” to play as a true freshman.
The dealer in the Bearkat offense will be senior Coleman Beeson, who returns as a starter for the Bearkats.
Last summer, Beeson lost his father, David Beeson, who was an assistant coach on Concillio’s staff.
“He is a special kid,” Concillio said. “The trials and tribulations he went through last year made him grow up. He is our coach on the field. I give him more responsibility as far as putting us in the right situation, and he handles it well.”
Another special kid in the Bossier program is Avery Williams. Williams’ mother attended Bossier High School with Concillio. In fact, every member of the Williams Family is a Bossier graduate.
Williams will see action at both wide receiver and in the secondary, but what Concillio likes the most is his attitude and flexibility.
“If I told him he would have to play on the offensive line, he would ask me for a playbook and have all of his assignments down in three days,” Concillio said.
One other quality that appeals to his head coach is Williams’ toughness.
“He will hit you.”
Concillio thinks that Bearkats are close to competing for a district championship in District 1-3A.
The Bearkats lost two games (Loyola, North Webster) in the closing minutes which would have put them in a position to play for a district title.
As far as the team to beat in 2020?
“Green Oaks. Green Oaks. Green Oaks,” Concillio said. “He’s got all the cards.”
Mansfield and North Webster each finished last season with a 4-7 record and an appearance in the Class 3A playoffs.
DISTRICT 1-2A PREVIEW
North Caddo impressed North Louisiana fans last season as it took home its first district title since 2004 under new coach J.J. Kavanaugh. The Rebels earned the No. 3 seed in the playoffs and were poised to make a deep run in the LHSAA Class 2A playoffs. However, district foe, Lakeside, upset North Caddo in the first round, 33-29 to avenge its regular season loss to the Rebels.
Lakeside, who was four points away from a quarterfinal appearance, returns 15 lettermen from its 2019 squad. Although, the Warriors look to rebuild on the offensive side of the ball this season, it will be the defense that carries the most experience into each game with nine starters returning.
Trey Sanders (WR/DB) is determined to lead Lakeside to another playoff appearance in 2020. The senior wide receiver recorded over 1,200 receiving yards last season and runs a 4.5 40-yard dash.
On the defensive side of the ball, senior Tim Ary (LB) and Jaylen Jackson (DL) look to anchor the experienced defense.
Mike Santelices enters his second season at the helm of the Warrior program.
North Caddo and Lakeside are members of District 1-2A along with Northeast Louisiana programs, D’Arbonne Woods and Jonesboro-Hodge.
DISTRICT 3-2A PREVIEW
A solid District 3-2A has been dominated by the Many Tigers for the better part of the last decade. Many hasn’t had many problems taking over Class 2A either, having advanced to the state championship game three times in the last 10 years along with four consecutive trips to the semi-finals.
There is no such evidence that supports the notion that the Tigers are slowing down anytime soon. Head coach Jess Curtis, who enters his 11th season with Many, returns 16 letterman from last season’s state runner-up squad along with seven starters on offense and seven starters on defense.
“We overachieved last year,” said Curtis. “We lost 22 seniors from the 2018 squad and had to reload. I was very proud of how we got better each week and went on an 11-game winning streak to reach the state title game.
Despite losing to a talented Ferriday team in the Class 2A state title game in 2019, Curtis believes that this season’s squad has bigger expectations.
“The 2020 team will be a much stronger unit. We will have a strong senior class led by quarterback Cadillac Rhone and running back Terrance Williams.
Rhone, who has offers from multiple schools including Army, Navy and Air Force as well as in-state schools Northwestern State and Southern passed for 1,620 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. He enters the season weighing 185 pounds, stands over six feet tall and boasts a 4.6 40-yard dash.
Williams enjoyed his junior year last season with over 2,000 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns. The six-foot, 215 pound running back is entertaining offers from UL-Lafayette, ULM, New Mexico and Utah State.
On the defensive side, the Tigers are led by sophomore safety, Tackett Curtis, who has been offered by ULM. Curtis led the Many defense with 132 tackles, three sacks and one interception last season.
“We will have a very strong sophomore and freshman class that will have us contending for the next several years,” said Curtis. “We expect a state championship and nothing less.
Many is joined in the district by fellow North Louisiana schools, Lakeview and Red River.
The Lakeview Gators are led by veteran coach, Brandon Helms, who looks to improve on a 6-5 overall record from 2019. Hopes are high in Campti this season as the Gators return a strong portion from last year’s squad. Seven starters on offense and eight defensive returners makes Lakeview a contender in district.
Helms expressed that although his team will be young at the quarterback spot, the Gators return quality perimeter players. His defense is expected to be a quality unit.
Udonis Jones is the Gators’ leading tackler with 108 total tackles from 2019 along with five sacks and three interceptions. The senior linebacker also doubles as a tight-end for Lakeview. He measures over six feet and weighs in at 230 pounds.
Tevin Hickman is the top returning punter for Lakeview. In 2019, he returned 17 punts with 20 yards averaged per return and three touchdowns.
The Red River Bulldogs are also expected to challenge Many for the district crown this year. Coach John Bachman’s crew finished last season with a 6-6 record, bowing out to Kinder in the second round of the playoffs.
Other schools competing in District 3-2A are Avoyelles, Bunkie, Menard and Winnfield.
DISTRICT 1-1A PREVIEW
As far as Class 1A in 2019, the Calvary Cavaliers may have not been in a class all by themselves, but it didn’t take long to call the role.
“It was a lot of fun,” Calvary head coach Rodney Guin said. “We had a great group of players.”
That group included four-year starter Cade Hart at quarterback and a cornerback Eric Reed, who signed with Auburn University in February.
Most observers penciled the Cavaliers into the Division IV state championship after beating Rayville 54-8 and C.E. Byrd 37-25. However, Ouachita Christian didn’t get the memo and came to Jerry Barker Stadium in the game of the year as the Eagles beat Calvary 49-47 in a shootout.
“I learned some things,” Guin said.
Guin’s starters in 2019 found themselves sitting on the bench most of the second half in District 1-1A games. When it came time for those starters to play for four quarters against, they weren’t ready.
“We will make the adjustment and do some things differently this year to make sure they are conditioned to play four quarters,” Guin said.
Junior Landry Lyddy is the next guy up at the quarterback position going into 2020. Lyddy will lead an offense that has five starters returning.
“He is a great kid,” Guin said. “He has a strong arm. Good size. He studies and prepares. We expect him to do well.
Guin said the secondary is a key spot for the Cavaliers, where they lost three of four starters–including Reid. Overall, the defense returns five starters.
“We have some kids who can do it, but they are going to have to really step up,” Guin said.
On the offensive and defensive lines, the Cavaliers will be bigger than they have been in the past, but also young.
Despite starting the year with three good football teams, the Haynesville Golden Tornado are not accustomed to starting the season 0-3, but that is exactly what happened in 2019.
“We have started 0-3 before, and still had a good football team–even making the finals,” Haynesville head coach David Franklin said. “We just weren’t playing good football and the players lost confidence, which made matters worse.”
Once in district play, the Golden Tornado reeled off six consecutive wins before being outmatched in the final game of the regular season against Calvary, losing 70-0.
“We were really disappointed,” Franklin said. “I thought we had a really good week of preparation. The kids had a super attitude going into that game. They just played really good and we played really bad on that night.
The Golden Tornado were young last year. They may be even younger this year. Franklin expects three or four freshmen to start.
“For us, this was the worst possible year to not have a spring practice,” Franklin said. However, he likes what he has seen from the young group in the weight room.
“I told some of the older players that they are going to have their feelings hurt this fall when a freshmen is starting in front of them. It will be because that younger player outworked them in the weight room while they are sitting on their tail. We are going to play the best player. I don’t care what grade they are in.”
Franklin does not know who the quarterback will be, but the offense will be led by Kedrick Grider who will play halfback and could play at fullback if needed. Grider is one of five starters returning from 2019.
The Golden Tornado offensive and defensive lines will be without CamRon Jackson, who signed with LSU.
Defensively, Haynesville returns five starters, but Franklin is not sure who the leader of the Golden Tornado defense will be.
Other District 1-1A members include the Plain Dealing Lions who are under new leadership headed into the 2020 season. James Thurman departed the Plain Dealing program for an assistant job at Red River, leaving the Lions without a head coach.
The Plain Dealing administration wasted no time finding a replacement and named Mansfield assistant Christopher Wilson as its new head football coach. Wilson takes the helm of a program that returns nine lettermen from a 5-6 program last season.
One of District 1-1A’s most improved programs rests in Claiborne Parish as the Homer Pelicans come off a 7-6 finish in 2019 and a quarterfinal run. Head coach Richie Casey’s squad returns 19 lettermen that includes eight starters on offense and seven on defense.
Casey expressed that if his team comes together and play as a team sooner than it did last year, that success awaits the Pelicans.
The Arcadia Hornets finished 4-7 overall last year before bowing out in the first round of the playoffs.
The Ringgold Redskins are in search of a head coach following Anthony Milner’s departure earlier this year. The Redskins were 1-9 last season after suffering six straight defeats to end the 2019 slate.
Magnolia School is in its second year as a varsity program and hopes to improve after having finished last year without a win. Second-year coach Andy Modica helms the Mariner football program.
“Our team will be more experienced, but still young,” said Modica. “We will be stronger and faster due to our first offseason in school history. We will be better coached because of new hires.”
Magnolia’s top returning rusher, Me”Caih Butler, rushed for 734 yards and two touchdowns in 2019 while Desmond Manning recorded 61 total tackles and five sacks on the defensive side.
The other member of District 1-1A, Lincoln Prep, finished 3-8 last season.
DISTRICT 3-1A PREVIEW
The Logansport Tigers were perfect in district play last season and advanced to the Class 1A semifinals. Despite a loss to the eventual state champion Oak Grove Tigers, Kevin Magee’s Tigers are poised for another deep run in this year’s postseason.
The other Tigers of District 3-1A, St. Mary hopes to improve on a 4-6 slate from last season.