Scott Pellegrin eager for first head coaching opportunity at Woodlawn High in Baton Rouge

by: William Weathers // Contributor

Scott Pellegrin’s been on the job less than two months as the head coach at Woodlawn High School in Baton Rouge.

One of the initial challenges confronting the 33-year-old native of Bourg is mastering his new roster of 70-plus players.

“I joked with my defensive coordinator (Chris Morgan) that I was going about it all wrong,” Pellegrin said at his team’s first outing in the Robert Graves Metro Baton Rouge 7-on-7 Summer League. “I was trying to learn everybody in one day. I thought I needed to go 10 at a time until I got it down and gave myself a little quiz at the end of it. We’re getting there. It’s been fun so for.”

It may not have been the most conducive time for Pellegrin to become a head coach the first time, but the alum of South Terrebonne and 10-year coaching veteran has assimilated himself accordingly.

When news of Marcus Randall’s decision not to return to Woodlawn for a sixth season became public, Pellegrin took notice. After four years as defensive coordinator at East Ascension, he decided to apply for the vacant job that’s part of a difficult District 4-5A with Division I select state champion Catholic High, Division I non-select state runner-up Zachary and Division I non-select state quarterfinalist Central.

Pellegrin only saw an opportunity, not a deterrent.

“I knew when I was ready to start applying for (head coaching) jobs about four to five years ago,” Pellegrin said. “I kept myself current with how I wanted to run a program, the behind-the-scenes stuff with budgets and things that aren’t football related. Down the line I’d love to get into administration. The football bug’s very much there. I was going to keep at it until it happened.”

Woodlawn, which has such players as Rickie Collins (LSU) and Jordan Matthews (Tennessee) on SEC rosters, was the picture of a team searching for an identity after last year’s 4-8 season that ended with a 50-0 defeat in the Division I state select regionals.

“I kind of operate that if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready,” he said. “I’ve kind of been working toward being a head coach. I talk to my mentors, try and pay attention to the guys I worked for. I knew I probably wouldn’t move too far from the Baton Rouge area.

“I’m no stranger to bigger high schools,” he said. “Woodlawn came open and knowing the resources they had, the players they have and the reputation, it’s not a hidden gem. I think everybody knows what it could be. I got the ball rolling, interviewed and it ended up working out.”

Pellegrin, a 2009 graduate of South Terrebonne where he played for coach Richard Curlin, attended Nicholls State and didn’t wait long to get into coaching.

He was a student coach for two years at E.D. White in Thibodaux under coach Kyle Lasseigne, moved to South Lafourche and became the defensive coordinator for two of his five seasons there.

He was the defensive coordinator for a season at Liberty under coach Drey Trosclair before joining the staff of Darnell Lee at East Ascension as defensive coordinator.

“I pride myself on being organized, kind of having it together,” Pellegrin said. “Even though I’m young, I started calling plays early. I felt pretty good about the football side, so I wanted to learn the administrative, behind-the-scenes stuff.”

Despite a lack of head coaching experience, Pellegrin believed he had plenty to sale in his vision for a program, including being a leader on campus and in the community.

“I called it the Panther Ideal,” Pellegrin said. “Identity, Diligence, Excitement and Leadership. That’s program wide. Having pride in your community, having pride in your teammates, being excited to play the game, understanding if you do right, the rewards will come. If you do wrong, bad things come.

“I’m trying to get guys to hold each other accountable and be leaders in our community and on our campus,” Pellegrin said. “ That’s what they (Woodlawn search committee) wanted. That’s what they presented to the candidates.”

Woodlawn officially announced Pellegrin as its new head coach on April 19 and it’s been a sprint ever since.

He completed the school year at East Ascension, driving daily to Woodlawn at the end of each school day, to begin taking steps in his new position. That required an introduction to the team and subsequent trips to meet and talk with as many players as possible.

Pellegrin relied on remaining staff members to help bridge the gap until he joined the team full time. He’s had to put together a coaching staff that remains two coaches short, but will feature offensive coordinator Storm Reeves, who was at Istrouma in 2023, and Morgan who was already at Woodlawn.

“We’ve had about six weeks to get about six months of work behind the scenes,” Pellegrin grinned. “Our athletic director (Brent Broussard) and principal (Michael Hilton) have been helpful. Our assistant coaches that remained on staff were a huge help, policing everything while I was finishing up.”

What Pellegrin’s found heading into the summer was a group of motivated players.

Once organized team workouts began, including weightlifting and 7-on-7 play, the Panthers embraced each day.

“I don’t necessarily believe in a honeymoon period,” Pellegrin said. “I think the coaches and kids are hungry to play ball and I am, too. Since I said good-bye to our team at EA, the fun part’s being around the guys.

“I’m kind of rejuvenated as well,” Pellegrin said. “They’re itching for football and being around the coaches and I’m itching for it, too, because we can actually do football.”

Woodlawn will navigate an offseason of conditioning, weightlifting and 7-on-7, also implementing its offensive and defensive principles, until the start of fall camp which will begin a week early because the Panthers didn’t have spring practice.

Pellegrin, whose coaching background includes working with the offensive line, defensive line, linebackers and special teams, plans to feature a multiple offense that will take advantage of a sizeable line to run the ball and open up the passing game.

Defensively, the Panthers will also be multiple with the ability to adjust to what opposing offenses are giving them.

“It’s all about hustle,” Pellegrin said. “We’ve got three hours in the morning. We’ve got it stationed out and there are quick transitions. Everything has to go quickly. We need to be so efficient that we finish five minutes early at everything.

“Our coaches have been working their tails off,” Pellegrin said. “Our kids were hungry for football with no spring. They’ve been taking to it really well since we started.”