Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 3, 2008


Sports Editor

Think football season in the River Parishes can’t get any bigger?

Think again – the action now extends to the summer.

After participating in East Ascension’s 7-on-7 passing league last year, East St. John, St. Charles and West St. John have formed a league in LaPlace with four other schools that’s been meeting every Wednesday morning since the beginning of June.

Those three local schools, along with Newman, McDonogh 35, Hammond and Jesuit, all participate. Each team plays three half hour scrimmages, with no lineman or pass rush, all hoping to get a jump-start in gaining timing and experience within its offensive scheme.

“You can’t put enough value on what this does for us,” said St. Charles Coach Frank Monica. “It’s a win-win situation for everyone.”

The league is one of many around the state, as more and more schools are finding the benefits hard to ignore. Under Louisiana High School Athletic Association rules, teams cannot practice in pads in the summer months before regular practice begins.

That makes passing only leagues like this one legal, and allows teams to gain some early insight to how they stack up against outside competition.

“We get to go against some super competition. Most of the teams here were playoff teams a year ago, and should be playoff bound, if not Dome bound, again,” Monica said.

“We’re able to use our coverages against all sorts of sets and see variation, not just one type of system. That’s the biggest thing in football, being able to see and adjust to different things.”

Likewise, the league allows teams to step outside the normal boundaries of its offense and experiment against live competition.

“Sometimes, we embellish a little. We’ll let the quarterback go out and chuck it around,” said West St. John Coach Robert Valdez. “You get to check their arm strength, and see if they make the right reads against live competition.”

Once the East Ascension league shut down, Dauterive and Monica got together to figure out a way to continue things. Soon after, the LaPlace league was born.

“It’s been great for everyone,” said ESJ Coach Larry Dauterive. “And we don’t even have to travel up (to Ascension Parish) like we did. It’s right here.”

The league’s 9:30 a.m. start time has been a boon to the league’s success, allowing players that play other summer sports the opportunity to participate fully.

The sunny days haven’t hurt either, says Monica.

“We’ve been very fortunate with the weather,” said Monica. “It’s worked out pretty nicely.”

The offenses of East St. John and St. Charles looked sharp in the teams’ last scrimmage of the day, as one might expect in the absence of a pass rush.

ESJ quarterback Kalen Henderson rotated with fellow passer Andre Millet for most of the day, and made the most of his opportunity in the scrimmage when he found receiver Reynaldo Young on two deep fly routes for scores.

Likewise, St. Charles quarterback Marc Picciola seemed to have good chemistry with receivers Zach Goodwin and Alex Marse, each of whom caught touchdowns.

Dauterive says the work for the quarterbacks is especially good because of the personnel groupings on the field.

“There are six recievers and seven defenders,” he said. “So you get to see the quarterback fit the ball into some tight windows and lanes.”