With perhaps the most hot and humid season opener that many can ever recall, teams around the state had trouble holding onto a very slick football last Friday night.
Perhaps no team was adversely affected as the Lutcher Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs built a 21-6 halftime lead at Amite but turned the ball over the first four times they touched the ball in the second half, including a fumble on a kickoff return, plus tossing an interception that was returned for a touchdown in a 28-21 loss.
“It was as hot and humid a game as I can ever remember in the last 18 years just being on the field. I thought you kind of handle those conditions and you kind of expect the cramps and some of those things to come into play early in the season but on a not that’s that hot and humid, you know that’s going to be even more of a factor,” Lutcher coach Dwain Jenkins said.
The Bulldogs’ play at the start of the second half had Jenkins scratching his head and wiping his brow.
“I don’t have an answer when you spend the time we spend on daily basis on ball security,” Jenkins said. “We’ve kind of gone back and looked at it, we’ve spent in the month of August 10 minutes a day every day of practice and you have close to 200 minutes of ball security put in and the first time in live action when it counts, to put the ball on the ground that many times and dropped passes and those things, it becomes hard to have any consistency offensively.
“We knew with our (young) skilled guys coming into the season that there was going to be a learning curve to catch up to varsity speed. You hope some of it was nerves and some of it was the heat and humidity, and you hope we can put those behind us. We had a season full of turnovers in one night.”
Those young Bulldogs will need to grow up in a hurry with the St. Charles Catholic Comets coming to town on Friday night. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.
St. Charles is coming off a season-opening 31-3 win at South Lafourche in which the Comet defense held the Tarpons’ triple-option attack to 43 total yards, including only 18 in the ground on 37 attempts.
The St. Charles defense managed to outscore the South Lafourche offense with Kamren Campbell returning an interception 48 yards for a touchdown.
“It’s typical of a Wayne Stein defense right there,” said Jenkins, referring to the Comets’ defensive coordinator. “You know going into the year they will talk down how good they will be. You would swear they would struggle all the way through, but the one thing that is constant at St. Charles is that they will play great defense. They do a great job. Their kids believe in their system and play extremely hard.”
Along with playing hard, the Comets also possess a fair amount of talent on the defensive side of the ball, according to Jenkins.
“This year, I think, they have some dynamic guys that kind of lead that unit when you talk about Mason Narcisse on the front,” the Lutcher coach said. “They like to pride themselves on getting those blue-collar kids that play super hard and may not translate into college guys but this year they do have a guy who anchors that defensive line that is a Division I football player in Mason Narcisse.”
Another player also caught the eye of the Lutcher coach.
“I think their linebacker, Mandel Eugene, is another dynamic, probably Division I-type football player,” said Jenkins. “Even though he’s only a junior, he’s real dynamic as far as speed and being able to get downhill and make plays. He makes tackle sideline-to-sideline. You see him making plays in the passing game. You see him making plays behind the line of scrimmage. You see him tracking down guys on screens 30 yards downfield.”
While the St. Charles defense has long been formidable, it has morphed a bit over the years, Jenkins said.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve played and they have kind of evolved a little bit,” said Jenkins. “For the longest time, they were an old 50 team up front. That really was what they hung their hat on.
“They brought in a former defensive coordinator that’s spent at a lot of time at different schools, Jason Brown, to be and assistant. You can see they’ve been able to mesh some of the things that Jason had done in his stops at (East Ascension), Dutchtown and some of those places. They’ve been able to mesh those things with the things that St. Charles has always done well and you can see it’s really paying some dividends for them as far as their scheme.”
The St. Charles offense is directed by senior quarterback Jason Dumas.
“I saw him in the playoffs last year and he really looked like a confident kid that has played a lot of football. He’s continued to develop as a passer. I think that’s something in the early part of last season maybe went underrated but I saw him in the playoffs and threw the ball extremely well. He put the ball in good spots and we know he’s a good athlete. He’s a guy they’ve been able to run the football with and that makes it tough on a defense to prepare for. When the quarterback is a threat to run, it puts it as an 11 on 11 football game and you have to account for everybody,” said Jenkins.
Running back Phillip Tran returns for his senior season for the Comets.
“I feel like Phillip Tran has been playing forever for them,” Jenkins said. “He kind of made his impact in the return game as a youngster and now he’s a seasoned veteran.”
Sharing the carries with Tran is junior Keenan Gauff.
“Keenan Gauff, you can see him get a bit more dynamic,” said Jenkins. “We’ve seen him in some jayvee games as he’s kind of grown up. Even though we haven’t played varsity-wise, we still play junior varsity every year.
“They run their pass, they read their keys and when things are blocked right, they make the consistent runs and keep you in front of the chains and you fall asleep and they are 60 yards down the field.”
While the Comets’ receivers in the past have not been game-breakers, Askea Armant gives the St. Charles offense a bit of a different dimension this season, according to Jenkins.
“I think he’s a guy they can build around,” said Jenkins. “I know they have a few other young guys they are playing at the receiver spots.
“I think with the experience Dumas has, you know their receivers will be well-coached and run sharp, crisp routes, and you know their combinations will attack whatever coverage you give them.”
The St. Charles offensive line is anchored by a returning All-District Most Valuable Player.
“I think they have a very tough offensive line, led by Evan Roussel, who is another guy that will play college football,” said Jenkins. “I think he’s one of the best offensive linemen in the River Parishes. I think if he was an inch or two taller, we would be talking about him on a whole other level just with the way he plays the game of football. He will block you through the echo of the whistle. When they need to run, you know they will go behind him and he won’t let them down.”
While several factors could contribute to the outcome of the game, Jenkins can’t help but come back to last week’s turnovers.
“Unfortunately, that’s where it all starts,” the Lutcher coach said. “When you talk about the ball being on the ground nine times and you lose five fumbles and throw an interception and you drop six passes, that all becomes the primary focus. There is nothing else you can do if you are giving the football away.”
Click below for the link to the game that is set to begin Friday, Sept. 13 at 7 p.m.