- Feature Story
- Game Preview
- George Becnel
- September 26, 2017 - 8:21pm
The Lutcher Bulldogs are suffering for a case of turnover deficiency.
Through four games this season, the Bulldogs’ defense has yet to force a turnover.
How rare is such an occurrence? The subject sent Lutcher coach Dwain Jenkins into research mode.
“I looked it up this weekend; there are 245 teams that play Division I football between FCS and FBS. All of them have gotten a turnover and some of them have only played two games. That just gives you some idea of how unlikely that is to happen,” the Lutcher coach said.
The lack of turnovers, in part, has led to a 1-2 start for the defending two-time state champions.
Two of Lutcher’s three losses have come against Ascension Parish’s Class 5A programs – East Ascension and St. Amant. In each game, the much larger team physically along the line of scrimmage just wore down the smaller Bulldogs.
It’s a problem likely to continue for the Bulldogs now that Lutcher has moved up from Class 3A to Class 4A.
“The difference in the games have been up front,” Jenkins said. “Their big guys are bigger than our big guys and they have been able to handle us. That is something we knew we needed to see because of some of the things we’ve talked about at the beginning of the season with the step up from 3A to 4A.
“That’s the biggest difference at the top. The top of 4A, when you are talking about your Karrs and your Nevilles is up front. You have to find a way to compete with those guys who just out-man you up front and we haven’t been able to figure that out yet.”
The Bulldogs face another Ascension Parish 5A school when they travel to take on Dutchtown at 7 p.m. Friday. The Griffins are not as big physically as their Ascension Parish counterparts, but still much bigger than the Bulldogs.
The ball not bouncing the Bulldogs’ way this season is in stark contrast to 2016. Last year’s game against Dutchtown provides a prime example of things going Lutcher’s way.
Lutcher was leading 7-0 when the Bulldogs faced third down at its own 23-yard line. A bobbled snap from center from shotgun formation forced then-quarterback Jontre Kirklin to chase down the ball. After inadvertently kicking the ball, Kirklin wasn’t able to pick it up until he retrieved it at his own 5-yard line.
Kirklin tossed a desperation pass that was caught by Gregory Clayton. The Bulldogs receiver was able to out-leap a Dutchtown defender at the Griffins’ 39-yard line. Lutcher eventually scored on the drive on the way to a 35-10 win in the 2016 season opener.
“This year, if that ball gets on the ground, it’s going the other direction,” Jenkins lamented.
If the Bulldogs are having their problems, so too are the Griffins. Dutchtown is not the same team it was a few years ago. After a 3-7 season a year ago, Benny Saia, the coach who started the football program, retired.
The Griffins are 2-2 this season under new coach Guy Mistretta. Of the two wins, one was a 57-0 blowout of lowly Sci Academy.
“The last three weeks, they’ve played Central, Sci Academy and Covington. They obviously outclassed Sci Academy physically and from a talent standpoint and the game never was in question. I think Central was not the Central that played Destrehan in the semifinals a few years back, so Central is probably down a little bit too, but they controlled that game from beginning to end, especially defensively. Covington is one of the better teams in 5A. They are 4-0 and in that game it was back and forth and Dutchtown had a legitimate chance to win it in the fourth quarter. You see some positives if you gauge how they played against Covington and they are improving,” Jenkins said.
Like Saia before him, Mistretta is running a spread offense. Guiding the offense is quarterback Ben Mays.
“I think they have an excellent quarterback that not a lot of people know about in Ben Mays. He throws the ball extremely well and can run the ball. He’s 6-3 and really does a good job running the offense,” Jenkins said.
Besides Mays, another top playmaker for the Griffins, Jenkins said, is Noah Gray. Gray plays receiver in the slot but also is used in the backfield.
Brock Beamon, Jenkins said, is a hard-nosed runner for the Griffins.
While Dutchtown may not be as physically imposing along the line of scrimmage like East Ascension and St. Amant, right tackle Noah Pitre, at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, caught the eye of Jenkins.
“He’s a good athlete for an offensive lineman. He looks like he could be a collegiate offensive lineman. Obviously, he needs to put on some weight before he can play at that level but with a 6-4 athletic frame, he looks like he can play the part,” Jenkins said.
Meanwhile, Landon Marchie fits the role of an Ascension Parish lineman.
“He’s maybe not as tall but he’s 290 pounds. He can really grade the road for them,” Jenkins said.
While the offense has stayed the same transitioning from Saia to Mistretta, the defense has gone through some changes, according to Jenkins.
“It’s a little bit more attacking. I think they played real strong technique gap scheme and played everybody’s gap and keep things in front of them and make sure there wasn’t a big play. I think this year they have taken a few more chances as far as getting pressure,” Jenkins said of the Dutchtown defense.
The top player on the defensive side of the ball is Van’shon Grayson, Jenkins said.
“He plays some offense but he’s their top overall athlete,” said Jenkins. “He returns kicks and punts and does a lot of good things for them. He plays safety for them and he’s kind of like that eraser on the back half of their defense.”
The Griffins have a few other standouts on defense.
“They do have some guys that kind of fill in in different places who have been impressive,” Jenkins said. “Jacoby Johnson, one of their linebackers, seems to make a lot of plays for them and can really come off the edge. The guy I’m most impressed with up front is Hayden Willis. He plays nose guard for them a lot of times and defensive tackle. In the Covington game, you could see the guy in front of him was really a much larger player. He was outmanned and played really hard and really well.
“Their defensive ends are really a strength for them. Darrius Reddit and Bryant Parker. He (Parker) is probably the most physically imposing guy they have at 6-3 and 225.”
Regardless of record, the theme for the Bulldogs this season has been to consistently improve.
“You need to continue to work on those things and that gets tougher and tougher as the season progresses when you haven’t had success. It becomes a lot about what’s being said on the outside. You start to hear all the outside noise and having to deal with all those things and that becomes the bigger issue. The biggest thing you have to do is to continue to focus on what it takes to win football games,” Jenkins said.