Southern Lab “here to stay,” and Riverside expects to be there too

by Jerit Roser // Contributor

NEW ORLEANS – Darrell Asberry climbed onto the Southern Lab bench and motioned and shouted to a green-and-gold crowd of celebrating fans: “That’s two!”

The Kittens swung biggest and swung last Thursday in a back-and-forth Division-IV Select championship game to top Riverside Academy, 42-35, and win their second title in the past three years in Caesar’s Superdome.

But, for all the excitement of that notable accomplishment, the coach emphasized that he is not satisfied and already has his sights set squarely on further trophies for the Baton Rouge program.

“We’re just getting started,” Asberry said. “We’re just getting started. We have two right now, and this train’s not gonna stop. We’re gonna keep going. We’re gonna get our seniors out here off to college, and we’re gonna come back and we’re gonna repeat again.”

The program will have to replace a strong senior class that includes quarterback Marlon Brown, Miami-committed defensive back Dylan Day, Ole Miss-committed tackle Jude Foster, consistent playmaking linebacker Chase Square and defensive back Ian James, who returned a pivotal interception 94 yards for a touchdown before halftime, and Evan Mickles, who recorded three tackles for loss, among its many notable impact players.

But the Kittens’ return a slew of key pieces as well from Asberry’s son, running back Armariyan Asberry, who capped his junior season with Outstanding Players honors in the contest, to a crew of sophomores who not only gained experience on a big stage, but excelled.

Jerome Harris Jr., one of the younger Asberry’s running mates in the backfield, exploded late for a team-high 85 yards and two touchdowns.

Speedy receiver Denim Hunt caught two passes for 67 yards, including an explosive 57-yarder down the sideline, and had three pass breakups playing in the secondary.

Anthony Weatherspoon caught a 58-yard touchdown to lead the team with four catches for 72 yards.

And linebacker Chad Jones Jr., the son of former Southern Lab and LSU star Chad Jones, tied Day for the team lead with eight tackles and Mickles for the lead with three for loss.

“I can enjoy this one,” Darrell Asberry said. “This one was done with our group of guys. We built it with our group of guys, and we’re here to stay. I’mma be here. I’m not going anywhere. I’m gonna be here.”

Asberry said he wished his team could suit up once more this season and play rival Madison Prep again after suffering its only loss to the Chargers, 13-12, in early September.

He also admitted he had hoped the Kittens would have the opportunity to face top-seeded Vermilion Catholic, who eliminated them in the 2022 quarterfinals, in this year’s title game.

“We started last spring and all we talked about was that quarterfinal loss,” Asberry said. “I didn’t want to talk about anything else but losing to Vermilion Catholic and that’s who we were hoping we got in the championship game. Unfortunately, it was Riverside, so I’ll call the coach and see will they put us on the schedule next year.”

But, coincidentally, the potential for deep-playoff rematches between the Kittens and Rebels actually appears high in its own right with the talent returning in Reserve.

Riverside will have to replace four starters on the offensive line, a tight end and a pair of playmaking defensive backs among its current senior class.

But the Rebels will return lots of production from a junior class that includes star junior running back Dedric Lastie and defensive playmakers Kaden Brumfield, Kaleb Brumfield and Chance Tyler, to a sophomore quarterback in Brock Bourgeois, to freshman defensive lineman Ahmad Cage and his two tackles for loss and a trio of starting receivers that includes freshman Cameron Matt and eighth-graders Kenric Johnson Jr. and Christopher Becknel.

“Now those guys got a taste of what that’s like,” coach Lee Roussell said. “Those guys got a feeling of what it’s like to lose that game. I know our seniors are gonna be proud of that, and I know they’re gonna come back and watch those guys, because I do believe we’ll be back. And I know how hard it is to get here, but I believe in our program and I believe in our young guys. And I know our seniors are gonna be really proud to come back and watch those guys.”