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Smaller schools again attain major haul of River Parish prep recruits

  • Tags:
  • Feature Story
  • National Signing Day
  • By:
  • George Becnel
  • Posted:
  • February 01, 2017 - 7:37pm

West St. John's Wonzell Dumas (left) signs with Louisiana College on Wednesday while teammate Jamal Walters is off to Nicholls as a preferred walk-on.

Some of the self-proclaimed gurus have termed it a down year in Louisiana recruiting.

That may be the case in terms of the number of players from the state headed to LSU and other Power 5-type schools but in terms of smaller colleges, the River Parishes have provided another abundant crop.

“Football is football, and Louisiana has always produced a lot of hidden gems. Other players have gone on to small schools and have had a chance to be very productive and further their education and career,” said St. James coach Robert Valdez.

One of those potential gems from the class of 2017 may well be Hahnville offensive lineman Drew Jones, who opted for Southeastern Louisiana on Wednesday’s National Signing Day.

“It’s not always necessary to go to a big school to be good,” Jones said. “Sometimes those big areas are not for you. God always has a plan for you and I’m just excited and happy to have this opportunity to go to school for four years for free. That’s amazing. I can’t thank everybody enough.”

Jones will have a familiar face at Southeastern Louisiana. Elijah Hayes, a fellow lineman from high school rival Destrehan, will now be a Lions teammate.

“We went on our official visit together at Southeastern and he was committed to McNeeese. My offensive line coach told me, ‘we need him; we want him, so let’s get him to flip. We talked to him and talked to him and finally I heard he flipped and now he’s lined up next to me and that’s awesome,” said Jones.

“It will be nice. I know he’s a good person,” Hayes said of Jones. “I know we will work hard and do great things together and win some conference championships.”

Also headed to Southeastern Louisiana from the River Parishes is East St. John receiver C.J. Turner.

“Southeastern was my first offer and they stuck with me the whole way. They told me, ‘you are a deep-ball guy and we will throw to you deep a lot and you just have to make plays,’” Turner said.

Players from the River Parishes opted for schools on a variety of different levels of small colleges, ranging from Football Bowl Subdivision teams, to Division II and Division III and junior colleges. Others went the preferred walk-on route or even a completely new venture.

Southeastern Louisiana’s Southland Conference rival Nicholls came away from the River Parishes with a new pair of Colonels. NSU added to its recent haul of River Parish players with the addition of Destrehan quarterback Kohen Granier and St. James receiver Dontaze Costly.

Granier received an early offer from Nicholls and the Colonels stayed with him despite a knee injury during his senior season.

“They were interested in me at the end of my junior year. I always looked to them as good coaches and good family because they are always talking to me. When I got hurt, they never stopped. They always called me and stayed in touch,” said Granier.

Like Granier, Costly said he is happy to be part of an up-and-coming program like Nicholls.

“The rise of the program, I’m very excited about being a part of that. Coach (Tim) Rebowe is getting a lot of local guys. At Nicholls, I will be able to spread the field and help out the team,” said Costly.

On the Division II level, Hardell Mack of Division III state champion Riverside Academy is headed to Arkansas Tech.

Wonzell Dumas is one of two River Parish players headed for Division III. The West St. John standout is going to Louisiana College.

“I think I will be able to progress and get bigger, stronger and faster. It’s a place where I really can achieve at. They told me they like the athletes that come out of the River Parishes,” said Dumas.

The other player headed for Division III competition is Ty’ren Jasmin, who signed with the University of Mary Hardin Baylor, the defending national champion.

“They said they will work with me a lot at the position I will be working at. It’s a just a great school of academics and it’s nice to move on to the next level,” said Jasmin, who will make the transition to safety in college.

Each year there seems to be one small, out-of-state school that backs up the recruiting truck in the River Parishes. This year, it is Independence Community College in Kansas.

Independence came away with four River Parish players from a pair of schools, receiver Tariq Belvin and lineman Raynel Hayes of Lutcher, along with Chandler Vicknair and Kailon Davis of East St. John.

“It will feel good because it’s somebody I know and we will go up there and shine,” said Davis.

Myles Meyer of East St. John is headed to Pearl River Community College in Mississippi with his eye on a bigger school down the line.

“I look at Pearl River as a stepping stone to where I can get to the university I want to go to. I want to go to Memphis. They told me to go to JuCo and that they would follow me and when I graduate, they will re-recruit me,” said Meyer.

Hahnville’s Rashad Domino also is headed for Pearl River while his Tigers teammate, Tre’Vas Chambers signed with Northeast Mississippi Community College.


Another East St. John player, Desmond Stewart, is headed for Southwest Mississippi Community College.

Marquis Darensbourg, also from East St. John, will be a preferred walk-on at Southeastern Louisiana.

“At first, I thought football was over for me but coach (Matt) Barrett from Southeastern talked to me about two weeks ago and they gave me the opportunity, not a full scholarship, but a preferred walk-on, and that if I handle business – I had the shoulder injury – that if I handle business I could be a starting quarterback in two or so years,” said Darensbourg.

Like Darensbourg, Jamal Walters will be preferred walk-on as well. The West St. John product is headed to Nicholls.

“They really liked me and I can see myself getting into their program easily. I see that I have a very good shot at playing there,” said Walters.

Another River Parish player headed to a FCS school as a preferred walk-on is Curtlan Johnson. The St. James running back is headed to Southern University.

Several of Johnson’s St. James teammates – Jaylon Braxton, Andre Dennis, Jahires James, Tyreik Stewart and Jonathan Tregre – are giving Southern Prep of Baton Rouge a shot with the hopes of being re-recruited next year.

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.