Wait ’til next year: St. John football teams look solid for ‘17

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, December 7, 2016

LAPLACE — The 2016 football season is over in St. John the Baptist Parish.

Some are celebrating, some are mourning. Others are saying, “Wait ‘til next year.”

The 2017 season is just nine months away.

One thing we know for sure, there will be no championship rematch between Riverside Academy and St. Charles Catholic.

Redistricting has sent the Comets up to Class 3A while Riverside remains in 2A.

That could mean the Comets have a more difficult path to the Superdome in 2017 as they’ll have to face teams from classes 3A and 4A in the Division IV bracket, but it won’t be because of a lack of athletes.

Frank Monica, the coach who seems to know how to do the most with the least, is projected to lose only 10 starters from this year’s lineup. He lost 20 of 22 starters from last year and look where the Comets ended up.

The biggest piece of the puzzle, of course, is quarterback Lloyd Nash, who returns for his senior year.

He was the motor that made the Comets go in 2016, a quick, elusive runner who could also throw.

He rushed for 887 yards and eight touchdowns and passed for 644 yards and four touchdowns to get St. Charles to the championship game. Once there, he rushed for 102 yards and one touchdown, and passed for 87 yards.

Also returning is junior Narquez Jones, who rushed for just over 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Phillip Tran, who rushed for more than 500 yards and six scores, is just a freshman.

On the defensive side, junior Dellary Oubre will be a key starter next season. He led the Comets with eight tackles in Friday’s final and his name — though mispronounced — was said often by the Superdome’s public address announcer.

After not making it to the finals for 15 years, Riverside has made back-to-back trips.

Rebels fans might have reason to be confident for a third.

Of course, they might be wrapping quarterback Jordan Loving in bubble wrap.

After stepping into the starting spot as a freshman, Loving, who also is a stellar baseball player, missed nearly all of his sophomore season with a back injury.

He returned long enough to play in the 2015 championship game against Notre Dame, earning Riverside’s Player of the Game award.

This year he reclaimed his starting spot, passing for 1,397 yards and 13 touchdowns in the regular season. He was 17 of 21 for 205 yards and two touchdowns in Friday’s final, earning his second Player of the Game award.

Loving will have many of his offensive weapons at his disposal again next year, including junior wide receiver/backup quarterback Jared Butler and wide receiver Jalen Banks.

The offensive line and the defense will take some hits, however.

Key to the defense will be the return of outside linebacker Jared Hymel, who had eight and a half tackles in Friday’s final.

For the past two years in Class 2A, West St. John has taken its lumps.

Next year the Rams will move to a much more suitable Class 1A.

The good news for this team is everybody gets their playing experience. There are very few bench-warmers.

“Next year’s team is going to be dangerous,” coach Brandon Walters said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Walters loses one offensive lineman and no defensive linemen.

Of course some key pieces of the puzzle will be missing, like quarterback.

“If I could tell you who that is, I’ll be saying something special,” Walters said.

D’Andre Gaudia, who was called on to fill in for Austin Alexander on occasion, is a leading contender.

Another big puzzle piece is freshman running back Kylon Duhe.

East St. John coach Aldon Foster is only in his second season as head coach of the Wildcats and he already will have some rebuilding to do next year.

The good news is, a lot of players got experience due to multiple injuries this year.

That’s how sophomore Dasmain Crosby became the starting quarterback and has the jump on the spot for next year.

“With him playing so well, it would be hard not to go with him,” Foster said.

“He did a great job, he’s a great kid and a hard worker. He’s so poised, it’s amazing.”

Crosby will lose some weapons at receiver, but returns tight end Javon Antonio, who scored 13 touchdowns this season.

Foster is a little concerned about the defensive line, which returns only two starters —  Dandrei Pittman and Christopher Thompson.

“We have some young guys that have some talent, but you can’t beat experience,” Foster said.