Things certainly are different at Destrehan.
Not only does Destrehan sport a new head football coach and offensive coordinator, the Wildcats are even conducting outdoor workouts in a different location from past years.
Instead of working out on the artificial turf football field, the Wildcats are working out on two open grass areas adjacent to the football field. And no, that’s not necessarily because of safety protocols in conjunction with the coronavirus pandemic.
“The track is being repaired. A lot of people see it as an inconvenience, but I see it as progress. It’s an opportunity to get a world-class surface out there. It will be nice. If you have to be inconvenienced a little while in order to have that level in terms of facility, you just bite the bullet and make the best out of it,” Destrehan coach Marcus Scott said Tuesday afternoon.
Scott, after having spent the past couple of years at head coach at John Ehret and is a former Destrehan assistant, is the new head coach of the Wildcats, replacing Stephen Robicheaux, who retired after the 2019 season. Scott brought along his Ehret offensive coordinator, Shane Bohrer, a former offensive coordinator at Riverside Academy.
Having served a previous stint as an assistant coach of the Wildcats, Scott already has an appreciation of the culture surrounding Destrehan.
“It’s a great place,” said Scott. “The community supports the school, not just athletically, but academically as well. There are a ton of support groups here and a lot of things for kids to get involved in. That adds to school culture and school spirit.”
Because of the state being in Phase 2 while dealing with COVID-19, the first two days of official fall practice have looked very much like the team’s summer workouts because of various restrictions.
“We just got extended another 21 days, I believe, so we’re pretty much in our summer routine, except for a couple other things we can do. We will make the best out of it and try to keep our kids safe, and hopefully, we can get back to more of a traditional setting soon,” said Scott.
New coaches bring in new offensive and defensive systems. Learning those new systems takes time and can be especially challenging when a team can’t gather and all work out together.
“Technology helps. We are able to a lot more with Zoom calls and email and power point presentations and things like that. We can still communicate with the kids. Coaches have adapted and the kids have adapted so we will just making the best out of it,” said Scott.
“It’s very different thing year with everything going on with the pandemic,” said quarterback Jai Eugene. “We are just trying to get better as much as we can and stay safe at the same time. I think we are coming along good so far. A lot of guys are getting bigger and stronger and that’s what we’re focusing on until the season comes.”
“Last year, you get to go in the locker room and hang out with everybody, offense and defense. This year, you just have to be with your offensive guys and get to know them and start to click and start to jell with them before the season starts,” said offensive guard Eli Taffi, the son of longtime Destrehan assistant, Tim Taffi.
The Wildcats reached the Class 5A state championship game a year ago and getting back to the Superdome is the goal once again.
When teams manage to reach the state title game, it usually encompasses a squad of players that feature a strong bond. Building that bond can be another challenge with a team not being able to work out as a complete unit.
“Last year, you get to go in the locker room and hang out with everybody, offense and defense. This year, you just have to be with your offensive guys and get to know them and start to click and start to jell with them before the season starts,” said Taffi.
The team has yet to don helmets. That’s likely to come in the next few days.
“The main goal is for us to make sure we have everything organized. Make sure the kids understand what to do and what the procedures are in terms of how we flow in the building, holding areas and things of that nature. That’s the foundation. It’s a new normal so we have to establish the foundation and once we know what to do, then we can transition more and it becomes normal,” Scott said.
Taffi is among the players who are anxious to not only put on helmets, but to put on full gear.
“I can’t wait to hit someone,” said Taffi. “I’m tired of hitting these (blocking) dummies. I want to hit a human and see how that feels. I haven’t done it since December, and I want to do it immediately since we had no spring (practice).”