Leblanc quietly became one of Riverside’s best

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 17, 1999

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / July 17, 1999

LAPLACE – Riverside’s Keith Leblanc is one of those players who is easy to miss on the field, one who smoothly, quietly goes about doing his job.

But Leblanc has gained the notice of his opponents and his coaches, especially when it comes down to crunch time. And at a school whoseathletic program is known statewide, Leblanc has achieved a rare honor – twice being named the Rebels’ Male Athlete of the Year.

“He’s a playmaker,” Leblanc’s football coach, Mickey Roussel, said. “If Ihad to choose in crunch time a player to make the play, he’s one of the top two players.”Leblanc also accomplished another feat that is becoming rare – playing four sports during his prep career at Riverside. He lettered in basketballfor four years, baseball for three and football and track for two. AndLeblanc excelled in all four, being named all-district in each.

Leblanc capped his prep career with a memorable 1998-99 school year.

The year began with Leblanc helping the football squad go 14-1 and capture the District 9-2A title. What made the season even more specialwas that the Rebels were coming off a 6-5 season in 1997, one that included a number of injuries and Roussel’s bout with leukemia.

“He’s a real fun coach,” Leblanc said of Roussel. “We missed him when hewas gone. We knew what it was like not to have him here and we knew weneeded him here to win.”The 1998 season ended with Riverside advancing to the Class 2A state championship game against West St. John. Even though the Rams defeatedthe Rebels, 28-23, Leblanc said making it to the Superdome was the highlight of his career.

“I got to play in it before I graduated,” Leblanc said. “I was nervous untilthe game started.”Leblanc set a Class 2A championship game record in the contest, catching seven passes for 114 yards and a 23-yard touchdown. The performancecapped a season that saw Leblanc named all-district and all-River Parishes as well as honorable mention all-state after catching 61 passes for 1,020 yards. He was also an exceptional downfield blocker in theRebels’ Wing-T offense.

“He exceeded all my expectations on the football field,” Roussel said. “Wehave had some great wide receivers here and he’s up there.”Roussel had credited the success of the season to the leadership shown by the team’s seniors, including Leblanc.

“I tried to pick everybody up,” Leblanc said. “Coach Mickey told us at thebeginning of the year we had to lead the team. He said the team the yearbefore had as much talent as us but did not have the senior leadership.”As soon as the football season ended, Leblanc went right into basketball.

Leblanc would help Riverside to its finest season since joining the Louisiana High School Association as the Rebels set a team record for victories and made the playoffs for the first time.

Leblanc averaged 12.5 points per contest in being named all-district andall-River Parishes and was called by coach John White the team’s best defender and one of its best ball handlers. He was also named the MVP ofthe Riverside Tournament.

“He’s been a hard worker,” White, who was also Leblanc’s track coach and like him was twice named Athlete of the Year, said.

“He’s a leader by example. He makes everything look routine no matterwhat sport he does. He’s always poised. He’s a four sport athlete and a realgood one. It’s been fun working with him.”Leblanc’s success continued in the spring with baseball. He helped theRebels make it to the Class 2A semifinals for the first time since 1995, batting .303 with three home runs, 14 runs batted in and six stolen basesin being named to the all-District 9-2A team. Leblanc also homered in theRebels’ semifinal loss to Loyola.

Leblanc competed in track for two years, placing in district in the javelin and 4×400 relay both years to advance to the regionals. He advanced to theClass 2A state meet in the javelin in his junior year.

Leblanc was named the Rebels’ Male Athlete of the Year that year and followed it up by being named it again this year.

“It’s an honor,” Leblanc said. “The first one was a surprise because I wasonly a junior. I thought it was going to a senior. The second time, I wasn’texpecting to get it two years in a row.”Roussel compared Leblanc to another former Athlete of the Year, Ryan Lousteau, saying that both had the same build and athletic ability and both did what it took to get the job done.

“If I had to use an adjective to describe Keith it would be ‘ice man’,” Roussel said. “Pressure does not bother him one bit. He has ice in hisveins.”Leblanc is heading to college this Fall where he plans to play baseball, his first love. In the meantime, he is working at Belle Terre Country Club andenjoying another hobby – fishing.

“Athletics and fishing, not bad hobbies for a young man,” Roussel said.

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