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Season-laden Woodlawn squad latest challenge for Bulldogs

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  • George Becnel
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  • October 17, 2017 - 7:55pm

File photosLutcher receiver Gregory Clayton is coming off a game against St. Michael in which he had a 73-yard punt return for a score. The Bulldogs host Woodlawn on Friday.

It seems even Mother Nature notices when the Lutcher Bulldogs win a football game.

“The weather this morning finally makes it feel like football season,” Lutcher coach Dwain Jenkins said Monday morning with his team coming off a 41-0 victory over St. Michael’s last Friday for only the Bulldogs’ second win of the season.

The win couldn’t help but bring some positive vibes to the Bulldogs, Jenkins said.

“It’s been a rough season when you think of some of the game we’ve played in. Some of the teams we’ve played against have had great seasons and we’ve been right there but we haven’t been able to kind of kick that door down. To be able to go out and handle business the way you are supposed to in that type of game, it’s a real positive. Even though we went into the game thinking we were the better football team, the reality is we have not had a lot of success so you don’t know how you will respond in any situation,” the Lutcher said.

A welcome sight for the Bulldogs last Friday was the return of the big play. Gregory Clayton had a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown, Daevon Adams a 50-yard run for a score and quarterback Kolby Bourgeois connected with Rondell Mealey on a 54-yard toss to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Adams.

“We’ve been able to do things at a pretty good level most of the season. It’s not like we go into games and can’t completely run the football or games where we don’t complete a lot of passes. It’s just that nothing has been an explosive play. It’s been a four- or five-yard gain during the game. It’s been 68 percent completions but plays that in the past a guy makes a guy make and takes it 50 or 60 (yards), it’s been 11. That’s kind of been the story this season” said Jenkins.

The Bulldogs, 2-5 overall and 1-1 in District 6-4A, play host to a Woodlawn team that is 6-1 overall and 2-0 in league play.

Coached by former Destrehan player and assistant coach Daniel Luquet, the Panthers feature a senior-laden squad that took their lumps as underclassmen before having a breakthrough season in 2017.

“They started a lot of young guys and this is kind of the year. Last year, I would guess they are a little like us this year, they played a tough non-district schedule, found a way to win a couple of games and got into the playoffs when they really didn’t think they would when they finished 3-7,” Jenkins explained.

This year’s success, Jenkins said, has produced a confident bunch of Panthers.

“They have handled everyone on their schedule since Week 2. They lost their Week 1 game to Live Oak. Ever since that week, they have been pretty dominant in all phases of the game,” said Jenkins.

While Woodlawn may be 6-1 overall and unbeaten in district, skeptics may wonder of the Panthers are for real as they enter the meat of their schedule to close the regular season. After Lutcher, the Panthers face Plaquemine and Parkview Baptist.

“I’m sure that’s something they are hearing about,” Jenkins said. “We are kind of fighting our own battle. We have to find ways to win football games. That’s what our focus has to be on. I think at the point where they are in the season, they are 6-1 and they have a chance to win a district championship. That’s something that they have to be excited about. They feel, I would guess, that this would be the next step in that progression.”

A major factor in Woodlawn’s turnaround is the return to health of senior quarterback Brian Byrd, according to Jenkins.

“He missed most of last season and he’s back. I’ve really seen the progression from maybe his first game back with a live situation was in the jamboree against East Ascension and they struggled offensively, and the last couple of weeks I’ve seen him, he’s gotten really, really comfortable,” the Lutcher coach said.

Byrd has a number of seasoned receivers to target.

“Bryan Reaser is one of those guys. Evan Puckett is another one,” Jenkins said. “It seems they are all upper classmen. Braylyn Jones is another guy that lines up out there.

“You have to be concerned with Xavier Lodge. He is kind of their all-everything guy. He lines up at receiver and at running back. He returns kicks and he returns punts and he definitely is a guy that if the game is on the line, they will want the ball in his hands.”

Along with Lodge, another runner for Woodlawn is Chris Middleton.

For the Panthers, though, it all starts up with the offensive line – especially along the interior.

“Anthony Hardesty (5-foot-11, 340 pounds)  is the guy who stands out just because of his pure size. But there are a lot of guys on that offensive line who are playing well. Their center, Darius Guy, does a really good job. He plays a couple of different positions but he’s played center some. At 6-foot, 240, he moves really well,” said Jenkins.

The offensive line, Jenkins said, allows the Panthers to be very aggressive with their play calling.

“They will take some deep shots at times because they are confident on second down they will be able to run the ball and get it into a third and manageable situation. That’s always a great luxury to have,” said Jenkins.

While the Panthers are huge along the interior, they are not quite so big at the tackle spots – something that is more and more of a trend in high school, especially with spread offenses, according to Jenkins.

“It’s something I’ve believed in for awhile here,” Jenkins said. “It’s something we have done but we just don’t have the same size of everybody else.

“It is something I think on a high school level has been very beneficial for teams that run the spread. Most of the times, the way the defenses are structured, the guys on the interior – the defensive tackles and nose guards – are bigger guys. Your outside guys, sometimes, are converted receivers or tight ends that are 6-1, 6-2, 200 pounds and play defensive ends and are real good athletes. It helps in matching up against defensive personnel. Unlike college and the pros, there are not a whole lot of 6-4, 250-pound defensive end running around in high school. It gives you a chance to be successful with your big guys inside on their big guys.”

Like the offense, the Woodlawn defense is seasoned and confident, Jenkins said.

“There are two guys on the interior that stand out, Kyron Mims, who is 6-4, 290, and Kenneth Washington, at 6-4, 310,” said Jenkins. “They both play inside. Washington normally lines up at nose guard and Mims at defensive tackle in their odd-front defense. They are the catalyst that allows them to do a lot of things behind them.”

Another of the team’s top defenders is Anthony Arinze, who plays end and outside linebacker.

“When you are 6-5, 210 pounds and you play defensive end and can drop back and get into pass coverage, he is a guy who gets your attention,” said Jenkins.

Other linebackers garnering attention are 6-foot-1, 215-pound Talbot Daniels and athletic Shaun McCray.

“What they have been able to do is they have been able to make teams one dimensional and really take away whatever that team’ strength is,” Jenkins said.

There is talent in the secondary as well.

“As far as the back end, the four guys in the secondary are extremely athletic. Xavier Lodge plays one of the safety positions. Brandon McDowell is lined up at another safety position. Jonathan Scott is a corner and they’ve had a couple of different guys line up at the other corner,” said Jenkins.

After falling to 1-5 through the first six weeks of the season, the Bulldogs began to focus on trying to be 1-0 in each of the final four weeks. That philosophy got off to a good start with last week’s win over St. Michael’s.

“We will continue it. That’s the only thing that we can do. We can’t worry about the future. We can’t go back and change anything in the past. Obviously, we would be in a more comfortable position if one or two plays in any of two or three games had gone our way but they didn’t. We can’t keep harping on it and we can’t change it. All we can do is whatever it take to try and get to 1-0 again,” Jenkins said.

George Becnel | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

George Becnel is an award-winning journalist and has been a sports writer and editor for more than 30 years.