LaPlace Power opens semi-pro season on road

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 6, 2009


“The only thing on my mind right now,” says LaPlace Power defender Robbie Bordelon, “is gametime. It’s all I can think about.”

He’s only hours away from experiencing it first hand.

At 7 p.m. tonight, the semipro Power will kick off the first game in the franchise’s inaugural season in Gulfport, Miss, against the Gulfcoast Pirates.

“I go to work, and this is all I think about,” said Bordelon as his team held a walkthrough practice at Regala Park on Tuesday night. “All I want to do is come out here and play.”

He isn’t alone in his enthusiasm. The Power players represent a mixed bag in terms of age, experience level, upbringing, occupation and outside interests. Though most live in the River Region, players at Wednesday’s practice came from as far out as New Orleans and even Houma.

The players aren’t paid. In fact, they have to pay their own way for transportation, meals and in many cases equipment.

But the one thing that draws them together is the one reason why they do it.

“It’s totally for the love of the game,” said 18-year-old offensive and defensive lineman Nick Valure, who makes the commute for every practice from Houma. “I grew up on the Bayou, where football is everything to us. Win or lose, I love pushing myself to the limit for my team.”

After being established by team president Wayne Thompson earlier this year, the Power has seen its roster balloon from “12 players at practice”, as defensive back Doug Freman estimates, to its current number of 42. At one point, the roster boasted 60 prospective players.

A native of LaPlace, Freeman is a veteran of a number of different leagues in different regions, and played Arena football in Texas last season before injuries ended his campaign.

“I missed my old neighborhood so bad,” said Freeman. “I just had to pass through it again.”

Freeman played for Thompson two years ago when his team was based out of Kenner, and likes what he sees so far.

“We have a lot of talent out here,” Freeman said. “At first, I didn’t think we’d have so many people in the first year. But things have been blowing up in just the last two weeks.”

He says that while the team lacks size, it boasts a tremendous amount of speed and athletic ability — something he attributes at least partially to the region.

“Everyone played at Destrehan, East St. John, Lutcher…we’ve got some serious athletes,” he said. “I think we have the chance to be pretty good once we mesh.”

For 26-year-old middle linebacker Rene Bordelon, tonight’s kickoff will be the first time he’s laced up the cleats in eight years, after playing for East St. John from 1997 to 2001.

“I went to work after high school. I feel like I should have played,” he said. “I’ve coached, but I haven’t played since. This is my college, my pro ball right here.”

Thompson — also the team’s head coach — has been involved with football administration for nearly a decade, and he’s seen players make it big from these ranks — former Saints wide receiver and kick return specialist Michael Lewis played for the Kenner City Chiefs when Thompson was involved with football operations there.

But he also is realistic — Lewis’s case is a special one.

“Not all of us get the chance to play pro ball. But there’s no reason that we can’t duplicate and imitate our favorites,” said Thompson.

One in particular who is doing just that is center Latroy Wilford. Wilford plays despite a hearing disability — he can hear only a low volume from one ear — but has played for Thompson going on three years.

“I’m just excited to play football,” he said. “The top thing on my mind is getting to the playoffs, then hopefully the league championship.”

“All he wants is the opportunity to play,” said Thompson, who also recalled receiving his first chance to play ball as a youth despite being asthmatic. “He wants to play the game that he loves to watch on the TV. And we want to provide that opportunity.”

Thompson understands that as an expansion team, his squad will have to face growing pains early in the season. He hopes to counteract the Power’s lack of size by utilizing a pro style, west coast offense that will spread opposing defenses out, forcing them to match speed with his team.

While his ultimate goal matches that of Wilford, the only prediction he’ll make is that LaPlace Power football will be an exciting brand, one that he hopes will garner a great deal of fan support within the region.

Its first chance to show that support will come a week from today, as the Power hosts the Satsuma Sharks at St. Charles Catholic’s Thomas J. Dupuy Jr. Memorial Stadium.

“I hope people will come out and show these young men support, and that maybe they’ll even inspire some young ones.” Thompson said. “This is the first program of this kind that the community has had. And I’m here for the long haul.”