Little seems to be the same in the era of the coronavirus and that appears to be especially true in the Bayou area of the state.
In District 8-4A alone, four of the six high schools now have new head football coaches.
The biggest name to make a move is Keith Menard. The former Central Lafourche coach has moved a bit north along Bayou Lafourche at Assumption High as he assumes leadership of the Mustangs’ program.
“It’s a great opportunity for me,” Menard said. “I live only 10 minutes from the school compared to 45 minutes to Central Lafourche. My wife is an alumnus here.”
Several of the coaches in the district are first-year head coaches. Menard, by contrast, brings a lot of experience to his new assignment.
“I’m blessed to be coaching, going into my 35th year. I love it. I’m glad I’m here at Assumption and looking forward it and see if we can continue the tradition here,” said Menard.
Menard takes over an Assumption program that has had recent success and boasts a fair amount of skilled talent.
“Without pads on, I’ve just seen them running around. We have a lot of guys that can really run. It will be fun trying to get the athletes the football,” Menard said.
Because of the restrictions on social gatherings imposed because of the coronavirus, Menard, like other first-year coaches, have only been able to look at their new players.
“If I was back at Central Lafourche, I wouldn’t be as concerned because our system would have been in place for seven years and we could have gone right to it. Here, we are trying to install a new system. Not having seen kids in pads and not really doing much of anything has really got us concerned a little bit. We are trying to input as we can and hopefully the stuff we put in we can actually use in the fall,” the new Assumption said.
Much of the Mustangs’ recent success has centered on a stingy defense and not many differences are expected on that side of the ball.
“Defensively, we will probably try and keep what Assumption had. Assumption has been really good defensively through the years. The coaches on the defensive side of the football know the system,” said Menard.
Followers of Central Lafourche in recent years will recognize the style of play expected to be used by the Mustangs, but with a few twists.
“Offensively, I will bring from what we did from Central Lafourche,” Menard explained. “At the same time, we will try to channel it to fit our kids and you might see some different things than what we did at Central Lafourche.
“We were one-back stuff and playing with a tight end. A lot of people have gone away from a tight end. We like playing with a tight end and it looks like we will have a couple of tight ends we can play with. At the same time, I think we can go to some 10 personnel because we have some skilled kids. I’m definitely looking forward to see how it all puts together and how we can make it operate together.”
The veteran coach said he is eagerly anticipating a new season – if there is one.
“I’m looking forward to playing high school football in the fall and giving people something to cheer about,” Menard said.
Adams promoted to head coach at South Terrebonne: Archie Adams will be in his first year as head coach of the Gators. A former South Terrebonne player, Adams has served as an assistant at the school for the past 23 years under Richard Curlin, who retired after the 2019 season.
While he may be a first-time head coach, Adams’ elevation to head coach allows for continuity at South Terrebonne.
“It kind of made the transition a little easier than an outside person coming in,” Adams said. “Coach Curlin did a great job of laying down a foundation, and like anybody else, we will change up a few things but it made it a lot easier of the fact the foundation has been laid.
“You know the community, the kids. It’s just that comfortable feeling and trust factor. They know what I’m about. It will not be a tremendous change. We kept most of our staff, which is a great staff.”
The continuity theme runs throughout the South Terrebonne. David McCormick returns the Gators after a stint as head coach at Ellender, while Adams has brought about former ST player and recent Nicholls graduate Chandler Arceneaux to the staff.
“We’re almost a solid South Terrebonne-graduate staff,” Adams pointed out. “That’s very important. You’ve got that community thing. They trust you. They know you will do your very best to try and get everything out of that team.”
With that in mind, much will remain the same for the Gators.
“We are not changing a whole lot,” said Adams. “We are based on the Wing-T offense. We do have some tweaks and some things we want to put in and expand if you can. It will be a big ‘if factor.’
“On the defensive side, Justin Lirette is our defensive coordinator. He’s was defensive line coach when I was defensive coordinator. David McCormick will be a linebacker coach, which brings a wealth of knowledge to help a guy like Justin. We will have some multiple fronts but 4-3 will be our base.”
South Terrebonne strength, said Adams, should be along the d-line.
“We have a veteran defensive line that is really going to help us. We have three returning starters, and the fourth guy got a lot of time last year. Coming off a playoff season it will help us out tremendously having all that experience on the defensive line,” he said.
A few more changes might have been in the offing South for has it been a normal year, but with the coronavirus, tweaking things seems to have become the “new normal” instead of wholesale changes.
“In the first year, we wouldn’t have changed a whole lot of blocking up front but it would be a whole lot more motions and getting people out the box with different formations, but again, it will be kind of a wait-and-see and put it in as we go, if we are able to. We would have expanded a lot more until this (coronavirus) happened,” said Adams.
Turner takes over at Ellender: Like Adams at South Terrebonne, Jesse Turner has been elevated from an assistant to the top spot at Ellender.
Turner served as an assistant the last five years with the Patriots, including the past two as offensive coordinator.
“For me, it was an amazing opportunity. It’s a school I graduated from. I come from the community. I relate to the kids well. This is something I always wanted coming out of college. I told myself I wanted to be a head coach. If I can get that opportunity at my old high school, it would pretty much be a dream come true,” said Turner.
Turner credited a pair of former Ellender coaches – McCormick and Don Washington – to help prepare him to be a head coach.
“I can definitely tell you, being an assistant and working under some great coaches like David McCormick and Coach Don Washington, those guys always took me under their wing. They told me I would be a head coach one day with the way I carried myself and my persona and the relationship I established with the kids. I have to give credit to those guys for helping prepare me for this moment,” said Turner.
Familiarity with the program, said Turner, could help his cause at Ellender in comparison to some of the other new coaches in the district.
“I was speaking to some of the other coaches about that. There are a lot of new coaches, a lot of new faces but the advantage that we do have is I’ve been here for five years. I kind of know the temperament of the team. I have a feeling of what we need to turn the program around. I’ve kind of got a heads up on some of those guys,” he said.
Like all coaches, the coronavirus has altered the routine at Ellender.
“It’s tough,” said Turner. “Being it’s the first year, I know it’s going to be a learning experience being a first year head coach. Now you have the COVID into the equation, that makes it tougher. But at the end of the day, this is what we try to teach our kind to fight through adversity. All this is right now is adversity. All we can control is what we can control. In terms of work, we have to do that to the best of our ability. I know that it will be a challenge.”
Success has eluded the Ellender program over the years – something Turner said he plans to change.
“The last two years we were 2-8 and you look at the past history of Ellender High School, we’ve never really been a successful program,” Turner said. “I’m taking it as a challenge to change that around.
“We want to be looked at, ‘OK, when you play Ellender football, no matter if they have the athletes that year or not, they will come and play hard and they are going in and expect to win.’ That’s the mentality we are trying to spread across the Ellender Nation and the Ellender community.”
South Lafourche starting Young era: First-year Tarpons coach Brian Young is not as much of an outsider as some might think.
Young is starting his first year as a head coach at South Lafourche after serving as an assistant at East Ascension.
Young has familiarity with the South Lafourche program as a former Hahnville quarterback and receiver. He also will have family ties Down the Bayou.
“My fiancée is from South Lafourche and she is alumnus and all of her family are alumni,” Young disclosed.
The 30-year-old Young said there was an instant connection to the area.
“When I met her and came down here, the people were so welcoming. Her family was so welcoming and easy to talk to and made you feel right at home right away. It’s like of like there (at South Lafourche High). I get there and they are cooking gumbo and they’re like, ‘Coach, you want some gumbo to bring home?’ It’s very welcoming and warm people in the community,” said Young.
From a football standpoint, Young will bring some of the things he learned from rugged District 5-5A to his new post.
“Offensively, we will be a spread,” Young said. “We will do some quick-game stuff and drop back and run a lot of zone scheme. We want to have an identity, RPOs, and put our kids in the best place to be successful.
“Defensively, we are a three-down front. We will mix between a 3-3 Stack and a 3-4. We will do a lot of slanting and stunting. Show the blitz one way and bring it the other way and mix up some coverages.”
The challenge is made even tougher for first-year coaches because of the social gathering constraints because of the coronavirus, Young said.
“Everybody is at a disadvantage with how many you can have in at a time and the kind of activities you can do are limited. I believe any first-year coach is at more of a disadvantage because their systems aren’t in place. They are working to do everything their way and they are changing everything,” the new South Lafourche coach said.
There may be a lot of gumbo and seafood at South Lafourche, but there also is a lot of pressure for the Tarpons football coach to win.
“If you don’t have pressure to win, then I don’t know if that’s a place I want to coach at. I like the pressure. It means people care and that’s what we’ve got down here.”