Youthful ‘Cats take aim at 2008 season
Published 12:00 am Friday, May 23, 2008
By RYAN ARENA
In order to final ly dethrone John Curtis as District 10-2A champion last season, it took one of the most experienced, explosive teams of Coach Rick Gaille’s 16-year tenure at St. James.
But now, an off-season removed from the Wildcats’ run to the Class 2A state championship game, Gaille knows he and his team have some serious work to do.
15 seniors in the 2007 starting lineup have moved on, leaving the Wildcats’ fate in 2008 to a crew of less experienced players, many of which will be getting their first extended taste of on-field action.
“We’ve still got more questions than answers at this point,” said Gaille.
Gone from the offense will be electric tailback Luther Ambrose, and his ability to score from anywhere on the field. Ditto for backfield mate Gary Davis, and offensive tackle Casey Narcisse. St. James must replace three offensive line starters from a year ago.
That, Gaille said, is the most imperative project the Wildcats will take on this summer.
“We’ve lost so much big play ability,” said Gaille. “So we must find some consistency up front. We have to be able to control the ball offensively.”
Senior Marcus Dumas will be back at quarterback, as is senior Kenny Zenon at running back. Much will be asked of each as go-to options on the ground in the Wing-T offense.
Controlling the ball is even more important considering the inexperience of the defensive side of the ball. All of Gaille’s front seven last season were seniors and have moved on, including defensive tackle Casey Narcisse and linebacker Juarelle Narcisse, two impact players a season ago.
“Especially replacing the experience we’ve lost at the linebacking position, it will be a very tall order,” Gaille said.
So far, though, the defense appears to be a step ahead of the offense. St. James faced Scotlandville in its spring game recently, and points were at a premium – neither team crossed the goalline, in fact, leading to a 0-0 tie.
“At times, it looked like we hadn’t practiced a day,” Gaille said.
He counted five bobbled exchanges between his centers and quarterbacks on the day, something that a couple of key injuries no doubt had a hand in. St. James’ top two centers were out with injury.
“We’ve been a bit banged up. The plus is it gave us a chance to see some of our younger guys in different situations.”
One name to watch defensively is end Terrance Green. While a senior, Green hasn’t played football since his freshman year, instead concentrating his time on basketball.
But Gaille sees potential there.
“He’s shown us that he has a high motor, and a lot of athletic ability,” he said. “If he can harness that this summer, he could turn out to be a college recruit.”