With Lutcher getting off to a 2-3 start, a win over rival St. James on Friday wouldn’t make everything perfect for the Bulldog Nation, but it wouldn’t hurt.
“The whole deal there is it is district now,” Lutcher coach Dwain Jenkins said. “It’s that next season. You try to put all those other things behind you and move forward.
“The way the high school season is shaped, it’s pretty well defined. You have the pre-district schedule, then you have a district schedule, and hopefully put yourself in position for the playoffs. Every stage in that gives you an opportunity for renewal and a new beginning.”
The rivals are district opponents again because Lutcher has dropped down from Class 4A. The return to Class 3A, however, has not gone as smoothly as might have been expected.
Last week’s 39-15 loss to St. Amant is a case in point.
Lutcher scored on its opening possession of the second half to take a 15-14 lead. A series of mistakes and a short field for St. Amant after a few poor punts allowed the Gators to turn three consecutive plays from scrimmage into touchdowns to quickly pull away.
“It was an avalanche. It seems like we haven’t been able to take that one mistake and put it behind us and move on,” said Jenkins.
That avalanche is something that has plagued the Bulldogs throughout the season and feeds right the frenzy that is the opportunistic style of St. James, the top-ranked team in Class 3A at 5-0.
“You start talking about teams that create avalanches, they are probably as good as anybody in the state at doing it. You can see it happen in waves in every game. They get going and rolling and those bounces do go their way. That’s a testament to the way their kids are playing and the way the coaches have them believing in everything they do,” said Jenkins.
“I really think they feed off of the emotion of their defense in the way their defense plays,” Jenkins said. “I think that attacking mentality that they have, I think the fact you have three guys that are probably Division-I football players that play down for you, gives you something that not a lot of teams can prepare and match for.”
One of the three guys is end Savion Jones
“Obviously, Savion Jones is the guy who has gotten tons of offers as a junior and he deserves them. He makes big plays. He makes plays with proper technique. He’s not just playing with reckless abandon. He does things within their scheme,” said Jenkins.
At the other end spot is Chase Geason.
“I think Chase Geason on the other side is probably the one that wasn’t as well-known going into the season but you watch him on film and he’s as dominant as any defensive player you see. He plays with a high motor. He’s a guy who gets big sacks, he’s a guy who gets big fumbles and he makes plays sideline to sideline,” Jenkins noted.
In the middle is DeAndre Keller, who also is a track and field star.
“He’s lost some weight and he’s probably a little smaller than he’s been but he’s still a dynamic athlete that plays at the nose guard position for them. He’s strong. Whether he plays football or throws shotput on the next level, is probably still to be determined but I think he’s capable of doing either one that he can,” said Jenkins.
The Wildcats aren’t to shabby at linebacker, either, according to Jenkins.
“On the second level of the defense, I think Lamon Lewis is a guy who stands out,” the Lutcher coach said. “I think he’s the leader of that group. He may not be the best player but he’s the guy that’s the leader at the linebacker position. He the guys that can kind of get them going.
“I think Kaleb Brown is really dynamic as an outside linebacker that plays in space. He’s really versatile. He does a good job at both pass and run. He can bring pressure off the edge.”
Because of the defensive front and linebackers, the St. James secondary may be a bit overlooked despite having outings like last week in which the Wildcats intercepted five passes in a 35-7 win over previously unbeaten Assumption.
“Tyler Steib has been a staple on that team and has Division-I offers,” said Jenkins. “You have a guy that can play on the back half. They play him a lot closer to the line this year, which has allowed him to make even more plays in the run game. He’s not just a free safety that makes plays in the passing game and cleans things up.
“Those other guys, Brad Batiste, Joel Cooper and J’Kory Ester, they’ve all made big plays in every game they’ve had.”
The big plays seem to never stop for St. James on the offensive side, led by quarterback Shamar Smith.
“Shamar is the ringmaster of the offense,” said Jenkins. “He makes everybody around him better. He makes your offensive line better because of the way he is able to make plays. You make a mistake and it still might be OK because he can get out of it and make a big play out of it.
“I think you have to consider Shamar Smith as one of the top players in the state when you start talking about class MVPs and those things, he has to be right there in the conversation with the way he has played so far this year.”
A Wildcat coming into his own this season, Jenkins said, if running back Sean Lebeouf.
“Now it’s his senior year and he’s the featured guy,” Jenkins said of Lebeouf. “All the way through his career, it seems like he’s split carries with somebody else back there. He’s become that guy. I guess he does some of the dirty work behind the scenes that may go unnoticed. He does a good job in protection. He does a good job in some of the quarterback runs being a blocker. He can catch the football and he can may you pay just as well as Shamar.”
If Smith or Lebeouf aren’t running the ball, the quarterback is finding one of numerous receivers.
“On the outside, Shazz Preston gets all the accolades and deserves them. He will be a top recruit in the state in a couple of years but I think other guys like Shen Joseph do a great job as well,” said Jenkins.
If that weren’t enough, opposing teams have to contend with one of the top kickers around in sophomore Alec Mahler.
“You mention St. James’ team and all the success they have on offense and the guys they have on defense, I think people overlook how significant Alec Mahler is as a kicker and punter,” Jenkins said. “He’s probably the best kicker and punter on the river and the bayou and probably between here and New Orleans.
“I know he’s still got a couple more years to go but you can see that if he chooses to that he wants to continue kicking, he will have that opportunity going forward just because of how good he is. He averages 40 yards a punt. He puts the ball in the end zone. He kicks field goals pretty consistently inside of 40 yards.”
If Lutcher is to win Friday’s game and tighten the series that St. James leads 22-18-1, the Bulldogs have to avoid an early onslaught by the Wildcats, according to Jenkins.
“For us, it will be surviving and not allowing what St. James has been so good at doing and something we were subject to Friday night, is that kind of avalanche of mistakes,” the Lutcher coach said. “You don’t let one big play turn into four or five or take you out of the game completely.
“Regardless of the standings, you know it will be emotional so you have to be able to survive those emotions and not make any big mistakes early on. I think for us, after both teams survive that initial start of the game and those emotions and you get to playing football, it’s being able to play the next play and not harp on what happened the play before.”