BACK TO WORK
Published 12:00 am Friday, August 1, 2008
By RYAN ARENA
The countdown has begun.
While not yet donning the pads and going full contact – the LHSAA dictates that teams cannot begin officially practicing until Aug. 11 – the East St. John Wildcats got back to work Monday after an almost two-week sabbatical, working on conditioning in preparation for the beginning of fall camp.
“We’ve been off since the 17th. When you come back from being off like that, you’ve got to get the conditioning work in to get to where you need to be,” said East St. John Coach Larry Dauterive.
“That’s where our focus has been – that, and installing the kicking game.”
That kicking game may look awfully different than in years past. Dauterive says that, for the first time in his six-year tenure at the school, the team may punt as opposed to using the field goal unit on fourth downs, as Kalen Henderson has exhibited some ability in doing so.
“We’ve decided to try punting. There’s a trade off you take from one to the other,” said Dauterive.
That trade off was on display in the 2007 postseason, when East St. John bowed out in the first round to Barbe, 28-17. Late in the third quarter of that game, East St. John kicker Bryce Robertson kicked the ball from the Wildcats’ 43-yard line. Barbe’s Ernest Celestie fielded the kick and returned it 86 yards for the score.
“Bryce played safety for us as well as kicking, and he did a good job,” Dauterive said. “But at that point, he was worn out. We didn’t kick it out of bounds like we wanted.
“The trade off is that when you field-goal kick, you have bigger guys there trying to protect. Then they have to try and cover if the ball stays in play. On punt team, you can put faster guys out there.”
That responsibility will be somewhat secondary to Henderson this season, as the junior is slated to be the Wildcats’ starting quarterback in 2008.
After beginning 2007 as the starter there, he has been competing for snaps with senior Andre Millet this summer. But Millet will move to wide receiver in an effort to get both athletes on the field.
Dauterive said that the combination of Henderson’s growth and Millet’s athleticism was a major factor in the decision.
“Kalen really came into his own this summer,” he said. “You can see it. He’s improved eons from where he was.
“Andre Millet’s got great speed and is a real good all around athlete. We have to get him on the field.”
Dauterive says that Millet is still rotating in on snaps at quarterback. Ditto for All-State running back Alex Singleton.
“We’ve got to keep him ready if Kalen goes down,” says Dauterive. “Alex is the third guy there. He played a little bit of quarterback last season.”
He expects Henderson to make major strides in his second year as starter. He has bulked up from 168 to 180 pounds, something Dauterive says shows itself in the added strength the junior has displayed. Plus, the intense competition that Henderson faced week after week as a first year starter should only help his progression.
But when the team begins installing its offense in the coming weeks, Dauterive says to look for improvement – not sweeping changes to the gameplan of a year ago.
“This offense has a different persona than the one we had a few years ago,” he said. “This is more of a run first team. We’re going to put the ball in Alex Singleton’s hands.
“But (Henderson) is showing more accuracy. We’ve got some receivers. We shouldn’t be facing nine in the box like we were last season.”