‘Dogs eye playoff run
Published 11:45 pm Friday, August 1, 2014
By RYAN ARENA
LUTCHER — “At Lutcher, no matter what happens, everything’s OK if you’re playing on Thanksgiving week,” reflected Lutcher football coach Tim Detillier. “But if you aren’t, it’s unacceptable.”
Detillier knows the pulse of his community and fanbase, having coached the Bulldogs for the past 22 years and to three of the school’s six state championships. Lutcher last reached that Thanksgiving week goal — the week of the state semifinal round — in 2011.
That’s been followed by two consecutive first-round exits, each under wildly different circumstances. The first, a 30-29 loss to St. Martinville, was considered a major upset, the Bulldogs falling after going 9-0 during the regular season. Last season, Lutcher fell 32-28 to LaGrange in the opening round, a defeat that came after the Bulldogs went 5-5 during an injury-ravaged regular season.
Detillier wouldn’t use the injuries — which forced the Bulldogs to use a whopping five different quarterbacks by end of the season’s second week — as an excuse, but conceded that he’d “never seen anything like it in all my years as a coach.” He credited his players for fighting back to make a push in district play.
He also said the disappointing 5-6 finish has led to a hungier group of players in 2014.
“They hear out in the community, just like we (coaches) do,” Detillier said. “The kids have set some lofty goals for themselves. They’re very hungry. It’s going to be a tough start schedule-wise, but we go through it every single year.”
The Bulldogs are known for putting up gaudy offensive numbers behind an aggressive, shotgun-spread offensive attack. But Detillier believes this Lutcher team’s calling card may well be its defense, a unit that brings back a ton of experience and positional versatility.
“They’re going to the ball, and when they get there, they’re in a bad mood,” Detillier said. “I thought they dominated our scrimmage (against Denham Springs).”
It starts up front with a stout defensive line led by junior Sully Laiche, sophomore Raynell Hayes and junior Tyler Williams. Laiche was the team’s defensive MVP in 2013.
Nick Duhe, Shawn Brignac and Ricky Ross comprise a linebacking corps with plenty of size and ability. Duhe and Ross are converts from the defensive line a year ago.
“They all started last year,” Detillier said. “The flexibility those guys bring is great for us. We’ve been lacking quality depth over the past couple of seasons and when you have guys who can man multiple positions, it makes it easier to field your best 11 when the injuries do strike.”
Junior safeties Ben St. Pierre and Dontrell Johnson are the top returning players in the secondary.
“(St. Pierre) is Mr. Utility for us,” Detillier said. “He’ll be a force for us as long as he’s healthy.”
Offensively, sophomore Jontre Kirklin takes over at quarterback.
Detillier said his athleticism is a major asset, but he will have to battle inexperience at first.
Kirklin saw time at quarterback a season ago.
“He’s one of the best athletes on the team,” Detillier said. “When you’ve got a broken play, he’s probably at his best. He’s very talented and can create some positive things for you. And he’s going to have a deep wide receiver corps to throw to. That’s probably the deepest part of our team, again.”
Gavin Englade and Destin Porter are the top returnees at receiver, though Porter may also see time in the backfield.
Senior Trey Harrison and sophomore Al’Dontrae Davis, the team’s biggest receiver, add to the mix, as does promising freshman Gregory Clayton. Clayton is the cousin of former Bulldogs great and current Miami Dolphin receiver Jarvis Landry.
The backfield will be by committee, at least to begin the year, and the offensive line is a group Detillier has great confidence in, led by seniors Rhett Lodrigues and Matt Duhon.
“They play with the attitude I like to see,” Detillier said.
The early returns are positive for Lutcher. LHS scored four touchdowns and allowed just one in its spring game against Denham Springs. While the Bulldogs begin the season with a tough road game at 5A power Dutchtown, Lutcher seems primed to reclaim the district crown that eluded it by a scant four points last season in a 36-32 loss to Plaquemine.
But the final judge of a season well-played, said Detillier, will be what date that final game is played on.
“To make that deep playoff run,” Detillier mused, “that’s Lutcher football.”