Dwain Jenkins knew he would be dealing with a lot of “firsts” this season.
There would be his first practice as Lutcher’s new coach, the first spring game and scrimmage.
The first game that really counts with Jenkins as the Bulldogs’ head coach comes Friday night when Lutcher hosts Dutchtown. Yet, the Bulldogs already may have experienced the feel of a first game following last week’s come-from-behind victory over Destrehan in the jamboree.
“Last week the good thing about Destrehan is you can’t convince anybody that it’s not a real game on either side,” Jenkins said. “When the game was over, you’re looking around and you know you only played 30 minutes but it felt like you just played a playoff game. It was a good test for both of us.
“I hope that first time, under the lights, against a very good program with Destrehan, even thought it doesn’t count, you get the jitters out of the way. It’s exciting to just kind of get the season started and get back to focusing on football and getting all of those things behind us.”
Lutcher won last year’s opener at Dutchtown in comeback fashion as well. Quarterback Jontre Kirlin tossed a two-point conversion pass done in Tim Tebow jump-pass fashion.
Dutchtown went a misleading 8-4 a year ago. Along with the loss to Lutcher – a future Class 3A state champion – the Griffins fell twice to eventual Class 5A champ Zachary and manhandled Catholic High, who would go on to win the Division I championship.
Many of the players off of that Benny Saia-coached Dutchtown team have graduated so the Griffins have the unfamiliar feel of an inexperienced team.
“It may not be as seasoned a team as Coach Saia is used to having but at a school that size with a program that boasts 200 guys in their football program every year, you know it’s just a matter of time before those guys figure it out,” Jenkins said. “They always will have great size and great athleticism at the skilled positions.”
Dutchtown lost five players from its spread offense that signed college scholarships, including quarterback Jared Spark, who inked with Purdue.
Along with their quarterback, the Griffins also lost their top running back, receiver and offensive lineman from a year ago.
“They have a couple of guys that are competing at quarterback. It looked like Ben Mays got the majority of the snaps last week and had some success,” Jenkins said.
Dutchtown played an abbreviated jamboree, playing one half against Port Allen and the other against East Ascension.
Because of flooding, the Griffins didn’t play a scrimmage going into the jamboree and missed practice time. Because of that, Dutchtown goes into the season perhaps not as polished as usual.
“I would expect they are still trying to plug some holes and find some starters. It’s not so much preparing for personnel as preparing for scheme,” Jenkins said.
Charles Davis is the most experienced running back returning for Dutchtown.
“He seems to be the guy who had a lot of experience last year and he seems to be the guy that, not the bulk of the carries, because Coach Saia throughout his career has kind of played multiple running backs and kept guys fresh. The one year where they really didn’t split the carries a lot was when they used Landon Collins (now in the NFL) on both sides of the ball,” Jenkins noted.
The Griffins also don’t have that main target receiver.
“They don’t have any one guy that’s coming back. They play a lot of guys but with no go-to guy,” Jenkins said.
Because of the sheer size of the Dutchtown program, the Griffins always seem able to find quality replacements for departed stars, according to Jenkins.
The Griffins return four starters on defense, including three guys up front.
They have two defensive tackles back, Kyle Sarrazin and Devin Mitchell. Byron Guillory is kind of a hybrid defensive end-linebacker. They do different things with him,” Jenkins said.
The Griffins are playing mostly with newcomers at linebacker and Dutchtown was hit hard by graduation in the defensive secondary. The leader of the group is defensive back Adam Sparks, a Vanderbilt commitment.
If Friday’s game is another tight one, what might be the difference?
“Anytime you are playing a big-time program like Dutchtown is, it normally comes down to a couple of plays on special teams and turnovers,” Jenkins said.