Unconventional path takes Gavin Peters to head coaching position at Carencro High School

by: William Weathers // GeauxPreps.com Contributor

It wasn’t uncommon for Ted Davidson to field phone calls while developing a dynasty at Acadiana High from coaches interested in joining his staff.

The Wrecking Rams had become the state’s powerbroker in Class 5A with four state championships and two runner-up finishes under Davidson, casting the program outside of Lafayette in a different light.

What was odd, though, was a phone call Davidson received from former track star Harold Porter, who lived in the Lafayette area following his collegiate career.

Davidson and Porter hadn’t crossed paths in more than three decades since their high school days at East Jefferson High School in the New Orleans area but Porter, advisor to the UL-Lafayette Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, wanted to put in a good word for the fraternity’s student president who aspired to get into coaching.

Gavin Peters had played two years of high school football under Mike Richard at Pineville High School, followed family members to Lafayette, enrolled in school and joined the fraternity.

Entering his junior semester in college, Peters had a desire to get coaching and needed someone to open a door for him. That led him to Porter to broach the subject with Davidson who was on the cusp of building Acadiana into one of the state’s premier programs.

“He called me out of the blue,” Davidson said of Porter. “He told me he had a guy that’s eaten up with the coaching bug. I told him I was full at that time, but that he was welcome to come watch and come to meetings. He just couldn’t coach.”

Peters eagerly showed up at Acadiana and enjoyed a 2 ½ hour conversation with Davidson about a number of subjects ranging from high school, college and professional football.

Davidson could sense an exuberant, passionate young man in Peters, who was looking for a path into a profession that had made an impression on him with his stepfather, Ronald David, serving for four years as head basketball coach at Jena.

Peters, a former ball boy at Jena, had also spent time around the school’s great football coach Mack Fowler before his family moved to Pineville where he played for Richard.

“He said to come by next week for spring,” Peters said of Davidson. “The rest is history. I showed up and never left. I didn’t miss a practice or a workout that summer. I didn’t get paid a dime. I said my payment was the experience and Acadiana ended up winning the (2010) state championship against West Monroe.”

Peters got a taste of the strength and conditioning component that’s so valuable in athletics, serving as a graduate assistant under UL-Lafayette’s Rusty Whitt (now of Tulane) in the weightroom.

He continued in his role as unpaid apprentice at Acadiana that had a wealth of coaching knowledge outside of Davidson. The Rams also had coordinators Scott McCullough and Dawson Durbin, and veteran secondary coach Gary Fontenot, who spent a sizable portion of their careers with the Rams.

By the time Davidson guided Acadiana to consecutive titles in 2013 and ’14, Peters earned his college degree, joined the Rams’ staff in a full-time capacity as offensive coordinator where he learned the Rams’ vaunted split-back veer that had become a staple of their success.

“He came and was like a sponge, he just sucked in everything,” Davidson said. “When I had a position come up, I said jump on it. He got to the point where I trusted him to call plays and it went from there.”

Peters spent a total of eight years at Acadiana where Davidson retired after the 2017 season and the Rams tabbed former quarterback and assistant Matt McCullough as the program’s successor.

Understanding that McCullough was the ideal choice for the job, subsequently guiding Acadiana to a pair of state championships and a runner-up finish, Peters chose to spread his wings across town when arch-rival Carencro was looking for a replacement to offensive coordinator Kevin Faulk, who left to join Ed Orgeron’s staff at LSU in ’18.

“It took two to three months to make that decision,” Peters said. “I made the decision to take a chance, go prove that I’m a good football coach. A big part of going to Carencro was kind of a calling from God.”

Six years later Peters, who as offensive coordinator was part of Carencro’s Class 4A state championship in 2020 – the school’s first in 28 years – was hired to become the school’s head coach when Tony Courville retired after a total of 25 years at the school in February.

“I always kind of had a secret crush on Carencro,” Peters said. “I admired the tradition they established. I admired the city. I wasn’t looking to leave. I saw how coach Davidson and coach (Scott) McCullough spent something like 37-38 years at Acadiana and I wanted to do the same. But I knew how much coach Faulk meant to the (Carencro) community. That was about 60-70% of the reason to come here.”

Thankful for a chance

Four months after taking over, Peters has gone about the process of putting his stamp on Carencro’s program. That’s included overseeing the offseason weightlifting, which he was previously in charge of, and now 7-on-7 passing to further hone the Bears’ up-tempo, no-huddle offense he helped institute in ’22.

“It hasn’t been much of a change,” Peters said. “For the past four to five years, 75% of the program I’ve kind of run. Most of the changes have been off the field from hiring more staff members, doing a couple of things in the community, developing a booster club. Inside the program we’re still operating the same way we’ve always have been. I’m just thankful to coach Courville for the opportunity.”

Courville, an assistant to Mac Barousse on Carencro’s first state championship team with Faulk at quarterback in 1992, singled out Peters as someone rising within the coaching ranks. He saw he was a coach on a very well respected staff at Acadiana that had created a niche with his energy on the field, innovative mind and ability to relate to kids.

When Faulk left for his alma mater at LSU, Courville immediately targeted Peters.

“When I lost my OC, we struggled that first year to find an identity,” Courville said. “As I found out, we had no identity. I wanted to go back to our early days at Carencro and a strong, downhill running football team. Ted (Davidson) allowed this young guy to run his offense and did a very good job.

“I took a stab at talking to him,” Courville said “I told him I’d be here a few years and when I’m done, maybe they’ll give the position to you. We were blessed that he decided to come with us and helped take us to the next level.”

Carencro reached the state playoffs in ’18 and ’19, including a 10-3 run to the state quarterfinals, when during a rather forgettable COVID season in ’20, the Bears struck gold again.

A memorable 35-19 victory for the Class 4A state championship enabled Carencro to stop Karr’s stretch of four straight titles and rekindled the Bears’ statewide emergence.

Carencro, 53-23 the past six years, were state select semifinalists in ’22 and finished with an identical 8-3 record last season that included a 14-7 loss at Acadiana in the state regionals.

Peters was in tune with Courville to operate a different way offensively.

With a clear admiration for St. Thomas More offensive coordinator Shane Savoie, Peters sought a way to meld the split-back Acadiana’s split-back veer with the Cougars’ annual balanced attack.

The Bears made such a leap to what Courville called a ‘Veer-and-Gun’ that could feature both a one-back and two-back sets, multiple receivers and a tight end attached to the line of scrimmage.

“He’s a very intelligent young man, he’s mature,” Courville said of Peters. “I loved to watch film and he was a lot like me in that regard. He’s a triple-L – Lifelong Learner – always trying to learn and his knowledge was advanced.

“He was very detail oriented,” Courville said. “He was an innovator. We would have the same personnel where on one play, we would be a split-back veer and then trips (three receivers) open with one back. He morphed some ideas into his own. He kept progressing as a coach and I gave him more responsibilities.”

‘I got it out of the mud’

Peters grew up in the New Orleans suburb of Harvey and wanted to play for legendary coach Hank Tierney at Archbishop Shaw like several of his cousins had done.

Peters recalled going to one of his first state playoff games at Shaw, led by standout quarterback Shyrone Carey, which lost to Acadiana which was led by quarterback Matt McCullough.

When his family moved to Jena at the age of 8, he served as a ball boy, stoking his fire for football.

“I think my family, they’re the ones that kind of developed that passion inside of me and there have been people along the way that have continued to develop it,” Peters said.

When his stepfather stopped coaching and entered the military, Peters was at Pineville where he dreamed for two years of playing professional baseball. He finally went out for football where he played fullback and wide receiver, a position with short-term potential for someone with a 5-foot-5 frame.

“I ran good routes, had really good hands, but didn’t have much speed,” he said. “I’m 5-foot-5, so I didn’t have much a life out there at receiver. I was pretty physical, and we needed some help at the fullback position.”

Peters attend UL-Lafayette, became president of the Kappa Alpha Psi chapter before deciding to alter his career path.

He reached out to Porter, who called Davidson and changed the trajectory for someone who didn’t play college football or coach until joining the strength and conditioning staff at UL-Lafayette.

“I got it out of the mud,” Peters said of his coaching opportunity. “I showed up, asked for an opportunity and just grinded. Every single thing coach Davidson did, I soaked it in. Every single think Judd Broussard and Gary Fontenot did, I soaked it in. My grandfather (Melvin Duncan) would always tell me that no matter what, just outwork the next guy. That’s always kind of been my motto.”

Davidson knows Peters had the skill set that will serve him well in his new capacity.

“A lot of guys have to spend a lot of time in different places,” he said. “I’m kind of flattered he took what we did and moved somewhere else, and it worked. He gets along well with kids, faculty, with administration.”

Carencro returns record-setting quarterback Chantz Babineaux to run the offense. Babineaux, a college prospect at receiver, passed for 972 yards and 12 touchdowns – both single-season records in ’23 – and will be joined in the backfield by running backs Jakalyn Roy and Kendrick Bernard.

The Bears will have senior linebacker Brian Amune to lead the defense.

Carencro will be faced with a formidable non-district schedule in Peters’ first season with three straight games against teams that either won or competed for state championships a year ago – St. Thomas More, Lafayette Christian and Zachary.

District 3-5A play begins Sept. 28 at Barbe in the fourth week of the season.

“We’re still kind of young, but ready to take that next step and become a mature team,” said Peters, whose roster has 26-27 juniors and 12-13 seniors. “We have some seniors that have played a bunch of quality snaps for us that we’re hoping can take the next step for us and become what we call ‘Tier 1’ players on the field.”

The program’s also set to welcome the exciting additions of a new fieldhouse, field turf that will be dedicated to Barousse in October and a massive scoreboard with replay capability.

There will also be the fresh face of Peters leading a team onto the field for the first time as a head coach, a scenario that gained clarity with a belief in himself and came to fruition through diligence and hard work.

“A lot of people in the profession were born on second base,” Peters said. “I was in the dugout. I just worked my way to where I am, and I thank God for that.”