When folks around the River Parishes talk about the 2018 Destrehan Wildcats, the word “loaded” is often mentioned.
With the likes of John Emery, Quinton Tarbor, J.R. Blood, Alex Huszar, Quincy Brown, and a host of others, it’s easy to see why.
Emery has verbally committed to Georgia. Tarbor has committed to Mississippi State, Blood to Stephen F. Austin and Huzar to Southeastern Louisiana. Brown, entering his junior year, already has received an offer from Alabama.
By the time the season is done, a number of other Wildcats are likely to find their way to college rosters.
“I really like this football team. They’ve worked extremely hard. They have done everything we asked,” Destrehan coach Stephen Robicheaux said.
Despite all the talent, the Wildcats still have hunger after a 9-3 season a year ago.
“Expectations are high here at Destrehan and 9-3 is not good enough. I think they know that. I think they understand that,” Robicheaux said of his Wildcats. “They came back with a little chip on their shoulder and they worked extremely hard and did the things they need to do to be successful.”
One of the hardest-working guys is Emery, the star running back.
“John is one of the most highly-recruited athletes we’ve had here in a long time and he might have missed one day all summer. When one of your best kids do that, you know business is at hand,” said Robicheaux.
Emery also is everything you would want a student-athlete to be, according to Robicheaux.
“Football-wise, he’s a tremendous talent. Being a SEC commitment, you know that. What I like about him is the intangibles. He’s a kid that will work just as hard on the field as anybody, if not harder. He will be doing extra work around the community and getting himself better as a role model on and off the field. You would not know he’s such a big-time athlete if you bumped into him at school. He’s just a humble kid. He’s just a fun guy to be around,” Robicheaux said.
Along with talent, the Wildcats are also deep at running back with the likes of junior Kyle Edwards and senior Ed’Juan Green.
“Kyle is going to be a big-time player, also. A lot of colleges like him because he’s more of a straight-ahead runner. He’s a tough runner. He’s a big back. He’s a really powerful kid that runs extremely hard. Ed’Juan Green did a good job for us when John was hurt,” said Robicheaux.
The Wildcats return a seasoned quarterback in Blood.
“Everybody says this but it’s true, J.R. is the kind of guy you want to be your quarterback,” Robicheaux said. “He’s a leader and honor roll student. He has his priorities straight. He really understands this year through experience the type of talent he has around him. He knows he does not have to make every play and I think he’s playing at a high level.”
The receiving corps starts with the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Torbor.
“He has tremendous hands,” Robichaux said of Torbor. “They (college scouts) really liked him as a sophomore and as a junior, the way he blocks. He just does a tremendous job on the perimeter.”
Brown, at 6-foot-4, is the big target colleges covet.
“He can run and catch. He’s going to be a really special receiver,” said Robicheaux.
Others in the receiving corps include Kolby Hollins, Mark Trahan, Carl Lewis and Joe Washington.
“All those guys can make plays at any time,” Robicheaux said.
It that group isn’t enough to scare opposing defenses, the Wildcats also have another college prospect in 6-foot-3, 190-pound tight end Carson Rieder.
“He can really catch the football. He gives us an added weapon to defend. The tight end is hard to account for. With his hands and blocking ability, he will allow us to do some things,” said Robicheaux.
The Wildcats return three starters to the offensive line in guard Chase Cook and tackles Avery Wagner and Jalen Richard.
Chris Cambre, a senior, is a first-year starter at center. Rounding out the group likely will be junior Kerwin Mitchell.
“They are not very big, but they are very athletic. I think they will hold their own and they will get after it,” Robicheaux said of his offensive line.
Destrehan’s inexperience comes on the defensive side of the ball, except for the secondary.
“I think on the back end, you have three starters back with Dontrelle Smith, Denzel Riley and Trent Smith. Then you have Champ Craven, who was starting as a sophomore and blew his knee out the first game of last season and he’s back,” said Robicheaux.
A new starter in the group is Albert Owusu.
“He’s a kid that’s probably put on 15-20 pounds and now he’s about 185 but he’s 6-foot-2 and can run. He’s probably going to be a college player since he’s worked his way into that situation,” noted Robicheaux.
The coach describes Huzar as “a physical kid that can run.
Joining Huzar at linebacker is junior Dylan Whitted.
“He’s inexperienced but is a guy that does a good job,” Robicheaux said of Whitted.
Up front for the Wildcats is 6-foot-3, 260-pound Noah Taliancich, yet another Division I college prospect.
Next to Taliancich is Xavier Shelby. Jeremiah Murphy and Charles Oliver round out the group.
The punter for Destrehan is Ronal Santos and the kicker is Mike Ehrmann.
Destrehan also boasts female kicker Merritt Tompkins.
“She kicked last year as a freshman. She became the first girl to make a score in Destrehan history. He has a real, steady leg, right down the middle – hopefully what my golf swing will be in about 20 years,” joked Robicheaux. “She’s steady but just doesn’t have the length of some of the others.”
Destrehan’s pre-district schedule includes Slidell, St. Charles Catholic and John Ehret. St. Charles handed the Wildcats a rare regular-season loss a year ago.
After those three, the Wildcats open district play with rival Hahnville in Week 4.
“That’s a tough run,” Robichaux said of the four-game start. “Hahnville is Hahnville and you know it will be a battle. They went to the Dome last year and they will feed off of that.”
The Wildcats, no doubt, would like to find themselves in the Superdome this season, but it’s not much of a talking point for Robicheaux.
“We talk all the time about just doing the little things. Little things will take care of big things all the time. Our goal is to win Week 1 and then then next one and go on from there. We don’t talk a whole lot about Dome and all that stuff. We talk about what we can do and what we can control and be the best team that we can be.”