Tigers restriping in 2013
New coach, check. New coaching staff, check. New uniforms, check. Is there more? Yep, throw in a new weight room as well and the Donaldsonville High Tigers football team come out for its 2013 with a clean slate, looking to avenge its 2-8 season from 2012.
With Benny Guilbeaux being named the head coach in February, the Tigers 2013 off-season has been full of changes. None maybe more important than it’s move from competing in the 7-3A district to now the 9-3A district.
After competing in the district 7-3A since 2010, the Tigers now meet new opponents in Berwick, Franklin, Patterson, and E.D. White all making up the district 9-3A.
When the changes were first announced in May, Guilbeaux said he believes the realignment will be an advantage for the Tigers, “no one really knows what we are running on offense.”
“Some of the teams I’m familiar with because I’ve been at a lot of high schools,” Guilbeaux said. “I played against Patterson when I was at Plaquemine, and I’m pretty familiar with the rest of the district.”
When it comes to familiarity with the Tigers, the team has a completely new look and a lot of new personnel who’ll be along the sidelines.
Guilbeaux has put together a staff that he wishes he could have gotten on board much sooner.
“I wish they were here earlier,” Guilbeaux said. “They work hard, they’re good at what they do – some of the best guys doing what they do. I just wish I had them him earlier.”
As far as the team goes, Guilbeaux said it’s been “slow growth.” Not as fast as he would like but it’s going in the “right direction.”
Guilbeaux will be looking to turn around a football program who’s record since 2010 is 15-15, but the last two seasons under previous head coach Terance Williams, the Tigers were just a sub par 7-13 overall.
The Tigers have the talent and potential to turn things around, but Guilbeaux said it’ll take consistency and hard work.
“All of the other things are nice, numbers are up, but a lot of it will be in vein if we don’t come out with victories.” Guilbeaux said. “So, the biggest thing is consistency and keeping in mind “win” as in winning games and W.I.N. – ‘what’s important now’.”
He said Donaldsonville has a lot of young guys this year and he understand the team didn’t have the best season last year, “but again it’s just dealing with consistency.”
“We’re young on the offensive line and we really just need to have those guys here on a consistent basis,” Guilbeaux said. “Whether it’s dealing with the weather, dealing with guys getting physicals, it’s a laundry list of things so consistency. We’re coming together once we get everybody here.”
Despite being young and small in size and the lineman positions, the Tigers are pretty much set at the skill positions. The team’s three-man receiving core could be ranked amongst the best in the state in having senior Leondré James, junior Jaquel Gant and sophomore Stephen Sullivan – all 1,000-yard receivers.
“As far as on the field they are as athletic as you can find,” Guilbeaux said. “But, stepping into leadership and being held accountable I’m seeing them mature but not as fast as I would like. But they are going in the right direction.”
Due to low roster numbers last year, James played his entire junior season as the Tigers’ quarterback. In his sophomore year he was at receiver where he caught for well over 1,000 yards. James has already verbally committed to play football at Tulane University, so for this year he just wants to get the team, “and keep us together so we’ll be ready for anything.”
“It’s looking great,” James said. “When I was a sophomore Jaquel (Gant) and I played receiver together and we used to get double-teamed, now we have Stephen (Sullivan) and he’s stepping up. So, it’ll be hard for defenses to double us and it’ll force them to face us one-on-one.”
James said one of the things Guilbeaux changed for this season was moving him back to his key position, receiver. He said that’s what he’d been wanting.
“I think we’ll have a great season,” James said. “We have a new coach, new uniforms, and a new weight room. I think we’ll have a real good year and I want to finish out great, with a championship.”
With James back at receiver, sophomore Tyler Brown will be stepping up behind center at the quarterback position. James said Brown is getting better everyday.
For Gant, a junior who’s trying to prove himself as a leader for the Tigers, he said he’s feeling good about the season and expects the team to do well - especially with the receiving trio of James, Sullivan and himself.
“We are going to be very strong, nobody in the state can stop us three,” Gant said. “We’ll really be big for the team this year.”
Gant said he’ll be doing a lot for the Tigers this year and he is certain the Tigers will play better with the new positives the team gained during the off-season.
“We have new uniforms so we’ll be looking good on the field and that’ll make us feel good and you play better when you feel good,” Gant said.
Gant said one of the key things Guilbeax has been stressing to him is to not get discouraged when things don’t go his way, just keep playing hard.
“Because you don’t know who is watching in the stands,” Gant said. “He tells us to play every down at 100 percent.”
Gant added, “I just know we’ll win more games than two this year.”
Rounding out the trio of receivers for Donaldsonville is Sullivan, who’ll begin his sophomore season. Sullivan said he’s looking to do the same as last year for the team and that’s make big plays catching the ball. Despite being only a sophomore, Sullivan is looking to be a leader for the Tigers.
“I can lead in school first of all, with grades and academics, because that’s where it all starts,” Sullivan said. “Then I can carry it to the field, and into the game to come out with wins.”
Even though the Tigers only won one game in district play last season, Sullivan had his way against the 7-3A district opponents. This year, going against district 9-3A Sullivan said, “we don’t have any worries.”
“We’re just coming to play, have fun and do our thing,” Sullivan.
For first year starter Brown, he’ll have a full arsenal at his disposal and he said he knows it’s going to be a big responsibility coming in as a sophomore and trying to take the team in the right direction from his position.
“It’s really a dream to have receivers like that, to be able to get the ball to at any time,” Brown said. “I know no one will be able to double all of them so I’ll be able to get them the ball and they’re the ones who’ll make me better.”
However, Brown said Guilbeaux and the coaching staff has been stressing to him the importance of learning how to recognize coverage.
“Knowing who to throw it to and when to throw it to them and how to deliver my ball on time,” Brown said.
When it comes to playing against the new district, Brown echoed Sullivan and said he isn’t worried about the other teams.
“I feel we have the coach and coaching staff to out-coach every coach in the district and we have the talent to take it to the next level,” Brown said.
Defensively, some young leaders who have a lot of experience in juniors Percy Cargo, Jr. and Floyd Foster, Jr will anchor the Tigers.
Cargo, Jr. has been known to play at the linebacker position and at the safety position. This year, he’ll play multiple roles again.
“Wherever he puts me at, I can play,” Cargo, Jr. said.
Cargo, Jr. said Guilbeaux and his staff have put a lot of work into all of the team.
“They’ve put a lot of time, effort and trust in us,” Cargo, Jr. said. “They give us all a reason to come back everyday and participate and just work hard to be the best.
As far as playing in district 9-3A, Cargo, Jr. said he likes that district despite winning two games in last year’s district.
“We are coming into a new season, a better season, with different teams to play so we’ll have a different look for what we are going up against,” Cargo, Jr. said.
For defensive end, Foster, Jr. he said he knows the team will be better than last year because “we have more people, we’ve always been talented and we have a better coach.”
“We’ll go far this year and I’m going to try to set the tone this year from the defensive end position,” Foster, Jr. said.
The new era of football for the Tigers will begin at home on September 6th when Donaldsonville hits the field with its new coach for the first time to take on Assumption. Then the Tigers will hit the road for two games against Dutchtown and White Castle. District 9-3A play will begin for the Tigers on October 11th when they hit the road to take on E.D. White in week six of their schedule.
Guilbeaux added: “You’ll see a lot more fundamentals from the guys. We’ve been doing a lot of teaching because we have a lot of young guys. I’m not real big on flash, we’re going to just move the ball in a variety of ways.”