- Feature Story
- Game Preview
- George Becnel
- September 19, 2017 - 8:14pm
For some die-hard Lutcher fans, an 0-2 start seemed like the end of the world. For the Bulldogs, things were not quite so dire.
“I really am proud of the way this team responds to stuff. They don’t let outside things impact their work and that’s probably been the best thing about it,” Lutcher coach Dwain Jenkins said. “If you come out and watch us practice, you wouldn’t know what our record is. That’s a great quality for a football team to have.
“They understand that they just have to show up and keep getting better and the chips will fall where they may. I really think for a lot of things, when you look at us so far through three weeks, you work hard and have to believe that sooner or later, you will get some bounces to go your way. We still haven’t gotten a favorable bounces on a turnover or anything this you so you have to think at some point things start to balance out.”
The Bulldogs (1-2) have a chance to reach the .500 mark with a win Friday at St. Amant (3-0).
In last season’s encounter, the Bulldogs were unable to pick up a late first down to run out the clock. St. Amant took over and marched the length of the field to set up an 8-yard touchdown run by Cade Nelson with less than a minute remaining to hand Lutcher a 36-34 loss.
The outcome was typical of the Lutcher-St. Amant series in recent years. The Gators have won every encounter over the past four years, including being one of the few teams to knock off the Bulldog during their back-to-back state championship runs.
“Lutcher and St. Amant have had some good games in the past but it seems like St. Amant has had Lutcher’s number for the past couple of years,” Jenkins said.
The Gators enter the Lutcher encounter with wins of 34-0 over Central of Baton Rouge, 24-6 over Lake Area New Tech and 41-9 over Helen Cox - teams that are a combined 2-7.
“You can talk about their schedule and who they’ve played but the fact of the matter is they dominated all three games. That’s what you kind of want to see – don’t play down to the level of your competition. They are breaking in a lot of new starters on both sides of the ball but those guys have showed up and competed and really taken care of business week in and week out,” Jenkins said.
Nelson is back to test the Lutcher defense. After rushing for 245 yards and three touchdowns on 35 carries against the Bulldogs a year ago, Nelson went on to rush for almost 1,200 yards.
“I think everything revolves around Cade Nelson,” Jenkins said. “He kind of had his coming-out party last year against us.
“He didn’t finish the game Friday but we expect him to play. He’s just a tough, hard-nosed, downhill runner and he gives them the ability to get behind a pretty sizeable offensive line and really just control things. It gives them the opportunity to open things up for their playmakers downfield.”
The Gators’ quarterback is first-year starter Harlen Miller. One of his top targets is receiver Collier Ricks.
“They have a couple of guys who have made some big plays for them. Probably the one that has made the biggest plays is Collier Ricks. His dad is Thomas Ricks, who played quarterback here (at Lutcher) in the late ’90s and went on to play at Southern,” Jenkins explained.
Ricks is just one of several threats at receiver. A number of them also play in the defensive secondary.
“They play a lot of guys in the secondary and at receiver. Those guys are kind of interchangeable parts right now. Ricks had two touchdowns two weeks ago and 90 yards receiving last week. He’s been their consistent threat at receiver,” said Jenkins.
A number of returnees on defense are similar to Nelson. Just like the running back had his coming-out party against Lutcher, many of the Gators defender didn’t secure their role until about midseason a year ago.
“They kind of evolved from last year. A lot of the guys who ended up being fulltime starters for them didn’t necessarily didn’t play against us early in the season so a lot of these guys started most of the games last year but we didn’t have them on film against us,” said Jenkins.
Defensive lineman Johnny Johnson is coming off a big game against West Jefferson in which he deflected a pass, intercepted the ball, and then raced 60 yards for a touchdown.
“Everything they do kind of starts up front with two guys, Johnny Johnson and Jacob Furlow. Those two guys seem to be kind of the heartbeat of their defense. Brandon Bell, the nose guard, is probably the biggest of their three down guys,” Jenkins said.
Garnering Jenkins’ attention is Gators’ outside linebacker Jacolby Landry.
“He moves very well and gives them the ability to be very versatile because he can cover people but he also can come down and play defensive end. It allows them to switch from three-man fronts to four-man fronts,” Jenkins said.
Another inside linebacker is Colton King, while top players in the secondary include Ben Parker and Tyson Cowart.
“In the past, St. Amant gives a lot of different looks,” Jenkins said of the Gators’ defense. “They are able to bring pressure from a lot of different levels. That’s something that gave us some issues last year.
“This season, they are predominantly in an odd front, playing those three down guys and if they want to get into their fourth down look, they bring Landry down to defensive end. They get pressure with just those three down guys but they don’t mind sending some different blitz packages, especially with their linebackers.”
As Lutcher seeks its second win of the season, the Bulldogs appear to have improved two of three areas of concern.
“You look at three areas we’ve focused on the last couple of weeks, we talked about explosive plays on offense, we’ve talking about eliminating the explosive plays on special teams and creating turnovers on defense. If you got back and look at the first three weeks of the season, those are areas we have struggled in. For us to continue to build on some of the momentum we had from Friday night, where we were able to eliminate big plays on special teams and able to create a couple of big plays offensively, we still haven’t gotten those turnovers yet.”