West St. John ready for three-peat
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Moving down to 1A, Rams still very talented on both sides of the ball
By DAVID FOLSE II
EDGARD-John Curtis, West Monroe, Evangel.
Three of the immediate names of schools that come to your mind when you think of state powers in Louisiana High School football.
It’s time to add a name to that bunch now.
Winners of back-to-back state championships and winners of three state titles in the past eight years, the West St. John Rams have emerged as one of the top football programs in the state.
Winning back-to-back state championships in Class 2A for the past two seasons, 2005 will see the Rams go back down to Class 1A and join a district that includes, White Castle, St. John of Plaquemine, East Iberville, North Iberville and Ascension Catholic.
While the move back down to 1A is only significant in a change of student enrollment and not overall football talent, legendary Rams Head Coach Laury Dupont said the high level of expectation in Edgard will not change.
“Expectations are definitely going to be high,” Dupont said. “In the community and also with the kids. We have a lot of kids returning from last years championship team.”
Taking part in a new district, Dupont said he hopes to see some new rivalries develop.
“Moving down to Class 1A is not going to change the competition level,” Dupont said. “It’s new teams, but our pre-district competition is pretty similar to what it has been the last two seasons with the exception of not playing Parkview.
“Over the past couple of seasons, St. John of Plaquemine has been the powerhouse school in that district, winning the last couple of district championships. Ascension Catholic and White Castle are also very competitive teams.”
Dupont also pointed out that fact that statewide, Class 1A might be better than Class 2A.
“There are going to be a lot of quality teams in Class 1A next season,” Dupont said. “Kentwood has always been a state power, Haynesville up north has always been pretty good, Vermillion Catholic is always solid and of course there is Evangel who is coming down to Class 1A this season.
“You also have Oak Grove and then you have Logansport. There are a lot of quality teams in Class 1A.”
The teams that Dupont mentioned in turn also list West St. John as a state power in 1A.
“I hope that they do,” Dupont said. “Over the last couple of years, I guess that we have earned that respect. Class 1A is not a step down. We have been in Class 1A for eight of the eighteen years that I have been here. We know what to expect.”
With a very tough out-of-district schedule that features St. James, South Terrebonne, Patterson, Riverside and St. Charles Catholic, Dupont said he would use his pre-district games to prepare his team for district play as well as the post-season.
“It’s just the competition,” Dupont said. “We just want to play good competition. That is why we scrimmaged Lutcher, that is why we scrimmaged O.P. Walker and that is why we are going to play East St. John in the jamboree. It simply just makes us a better football team.
“It prepares us for district. Hopefully we are going to be one of the teams to beat in our district. I don’t know what our pre-district schedule is going to give us this season, but I know that it is going to definitely be tough.”
When it comes to the 2005 version of the Rams, the first question that comes to everyone’s mind is who is going to replace all-everything tailback Patrick Jackson.
“You don’t replace a Patrick Jackson,” Dupont said. “The kid pretty much broke every state record that there every was. It was phenomenal was he accomplished last year and the way that he did it.”
While no one specific will replace Jackson, Dupont said he does have quality players that he hopes will step up in ’05.
“We’ve got Daron Bartholomew who is a real good tailback,” Dupont said. “Jaron Howard plays fullback and tailback. Josh Johnson, who is a legitimate tailback, will move to slotback.
“They all three are tailbacks and they will all be in the backfield together, so there is a lot of experience from a lot of skilled athletes. We are excited about our running backs.”
Senior Olajuwon Hall will finally have his chance to shine under center for the Rams. A back up to Juan Joseph last season, the starting job is in the hands of the senior in 2005.
“Olajuwon has been our back-up for the past two seasons,” Dupont said. “He is going to do a good job for us. The only problem is that he is a senior and does not have a whole lot of experience.”
One thing that will ease the nerves of Dupont with Hall behind center is a very talented receiving core led by senior Tiarus Jenkins.
“Tiarus caught 25 passes for nearly 700 yards last season,” Dupont said. “Davonne Lumar also played a lot at receiver for us last year. Those are two rangy and tall guys that can definitely catch the football. We are excited about our receiving core.”
While experience reigns supreme in the backfield and at wide receiver, the Rams must replace four starters on the offensive line, something Dupont said will be very important for their success.
“That’s our problem,” Dupont said. “We thought the same thing last year that we didn’t have enough depth on the line of scrimmage. Jordan August is our lone returning starter on the offensive line.
“We have some quality kids that played a lot in backup roles last season and we feel that they will do a good job for us. They just need to get the playing time.”
The same holds true on the other side of the line of scrimmage for the Rams.
“We are in the same situation on the defensive line,” Dupont said. “We have lost our whole interior. In addition to that, we have lost our two inside linebackers. We are basically replacing all of our down six players.
“Tiarus Jenkins played a little bit defensively at end, but mostly we are replacing the entire defensive line.”
Despite the losses on defense, Dupont said his squad will present various challenges for opposing offenses throughout the 2005 season.
“I would say that once again our strength defensively will be our quickness and our size,” Dupont said. “We are going to have good, but not great size. We will also be able to move to the ball very well also.
“We don’t have a lot of experience in terms of starters returning, but a lot of these kids played a lot last year. We have a lot of game experience.”
Overall, Dupont is excited about his team’s chances at success in the upcoming season.
“We may not have as many college prospects on this year’s squad,” Dupont said. “But we will have a good high school football team. We feel good about our team. We just have to rely on a lot of young guys who are really going to have to step up.”