The 2018 Central Catholic High School football team
(Submitted Photo/Courtesy of Misti & Co. Photography)
CCHS Eagles return tons of experience in 2018
Central Catholic High School’s football team enters the 2018 season with a ton of experience returning from a young squad a year ago.
The Eagles return 14 juniors who received a lot of playing time a year ago, and the team’s seven seniors all are experienced, Central Catholic Coach Tommy Minton.
“We feel like we’re a much more experienced team coming into this season than we were last year, and you see that on the practice field,” Minton said. “You saw that with the work ethic and the work habits this summer and you see it through fall camp so far up to this period. We’re a year older. We’re a year stronger. We’re a year wiser, and all of that has showed so far.”
Among the returnees are nine first- or second-team All-District 7-1A selections.
The squad’s coaching staff also returns intact and will add a new member in veteran coach Bill Harris. Harris, who Minton said spent 20 years as a head coach in Georgia, also served as Minton’s defensive coordinator at Patterson High School. Minton said Harris and Corey Brodie will serve as co-defensive coordinators.
“He’s just a very veteran set of eyes that can lend a lot of experience to us,” Minton said of Harris.
Harris also will coach inside linebackers, while Brodie also will coach the secondary and wide receivers.
Other members of the Eagles coaching staff are Coby Minton, offensive line and offensive coordinator; Trey Smith, outside linebackers and H-backs; Terrance Johnson, quarterbacks; Bryson Barbier, tight ends and secondary; and David Irwin, defensive line and offensive line. In addition to his head coaching duties, Minton will handle special teams.
The Eagles will use multiple formations this year, utilizing a tight end and an H-back. The team also will line up in spread formations, too.
Senior DeDe Gant will take over at quarterback for the Eagles this year. Gant, who started at quarterback as a sophomore after then-senior Blake Byrne was injured, will return to the position after earning first-team All-District 7-1A honors as a wide receiver a year ago.
“He can do a lot of things with his legs,” Minton said. “He’s a very good athlete, but I think people underestimate his ability to throw the football. He throws the ball really well.”
Junior Taylor Blanchard, who received extensive playing time a year ago, also will get plenty of reps at quarterback.
“We’re going to have packages for Taylor every week,” Minton said.
A year ago, Blanchard completed 46 of 91 passes for 816 yards with eight touchdowns and 12 interceptions
Other players working at quarterback are freshman Freddie Calloway and junior Ryan Miller.
While the Eagles must replace Class 1A All-State running back Chris Singleton, who rushed for 1,500 yards a year ago, Minton said likes what he has at running back this year.
“One of the reasons we’re going to be so multiple in our sets is because I feel really good about the number of guys we got that can carry the football,” Minton said.
Davidyione Bias, who played at quarterback a year ago, will move back to running back to lead the group. Bias was a second-team All-District 7-1A selection a season ago.
“He’s a workhorse from last year,” Minton said of Bias. “He played quarterback, but he was a running quarterback. He had never played quarterback before. We put him there to try to take advantage of his athletic ability, but we’re putting him back in a position he’s comfortable with at running back.”
In 2017, Bias rushed 145 times for 730 yards and seven touchdowns.
Other Eagles at running back are junior Philip Guarisco, sophomore Hugh Hamer, senior Hunter Daigle, freshman Kye Morgel and sophomore Dayshon Pete.
“We’re very, very deep at the running back position,” Minton said. “All of those kids I feel like could get us out of a ball game, that I could depend on giving the ball to them multiple times.”
Junior Nathan Hebb, who started for the Eagles at tight end a year ago, along with senior Dakota Lux, a Morgan City High School transfer who originally began high school at Central Catholic, will man the h-back position. Hebb was a first-team All-District 7-1A performer at tight end a year ago.
“They’re both tall, athletic kids that can move,” Minton said. “We’ll be able to use them, move them around at different positions to give us multiple formation looks.”
Minton said Hebb and Lux are good blockers and can catch the ball.
A year ago, Hebb caught seven passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns.
Senior Brooks Thomas and junior Grant Stansbury will be the team’s receivers in their base offense.
When the team gets into a four-wide receiver set, Miller and senior Bryce Grizzaffi will man the slot receiver positions.
“All four of those guys are athletic kids,” Minton said.
In 2017, Thomas had 13 receptions for 164 yards and two scores.
Gone from last year’s team due to graduation is second-team All-District 7-1A receiver Cade Minton.
Sophomore Caleb Menina who received playing time at tight end a year ago, will man the position this season, while sophomore Zach Bennett also will receive reps.
The Eagles will return four starting offensive lineman this season.
“If there’s one area you want experience, it’s offensive line, no doubt about it, and I feel good that those guys are back,” Minton said. “There’s a lot of continuity there. They’re a close group. They mesh together. Coby does a good job with those guys of creating a culture where they have the right chemistry (and) they have the right attitude it takes to be an offensive lineman.”
The returning starters are juniors Michael-Anthony Hill and Grant Cheramie at the tackle positions and junior guard Kaden Scott and senior guard Cade Booty. Austin Austin Ganaway, the new starter on the line, will be the team’s center.
Scott, Booty and Hill all were second-team All-District 7-1A offensive linemen a year ago.
Korey Kincaid, who started on the offensive line a year ago before moving to defense this season, will see some time on offense still in 2018. Parker Nelson, a Crowley High transfer who is Central Catholic’s starting nose guard this season, also will play on the offensive line when the Eagles utilize unbalanced looks.
The Eagles will run out of a 3-4 look this season.
“At times, that’ll morph into a 5-2 where we play some man coverage, and at times it’ll be a true 3-4 with some cover 4 zone behind it,” Minton said.
While among the Eagles’ losses from a year ago were first-team All-District 7-1A defensive lineman Ethan Whittington and second-team All-District 7-1A defensive lineman Dominic Skipper, Minton said he feels his team has depth on the line this season.
Nelson will be the team’s starting nose guard
“Parker’s a big kid,” Minton said. “He transferred in. His family moved here from Crowley in the spring, and he’s been a big addition for us.”
At defensive end, Kincaid will start at one position, while they have four players — sophomore Bently Alcina, junior Aiden DeHart and freshmen Drayton Keller and Dylan Cornes — who will play at the other position.
“We got some guys we can keep some people fresh, and it’s a position of strength for us I feel like,” Minton said.
Gone from the Eagles’ linebacking corps a year ago is all-state linebacker Cooper LeBlanc.
However, Hebb, the team’s second-leading tackler a year ago, returns. He will play inside linebacker. Lux also will play inside linebacker and at outside linebacker, too. When Lux isn’t at inside linebacker, sophomore Ethan Majewski and Bennett will hold down the other inside linebacker spot.
“We got four guys there that we feel good about,” Minton said.
The Eagles will be looking to Guarisco and J.C. Hebert at the outside linebacker positions, while Pete and Morgel are penciled in behind the starters.
“They give us a good mix of experience (and) athletic ability there,” Minton said, noting the quartet can be utilized as edge rushers or in zone coverage.
Daigle, a first-team All-District 7-1A linebacker a year ago, will play a “free safety hybrid” role this year, Minton said, explaining that Daigle could be lined up in the box as a linebacker would or he could play free safety.
“I think what we have him doing this year suits his athletic ability and suits what he can do to help us,” Minton said.
Calloway also will receive a lot of playing time in this role, too, Minton said.
Grizzaffi, a second-team All-District 7-1A defensive back a year ago, will play strong safety.
“He’s had a great summer, and he had a ton of interceptions in 7-on-7 this summer,” Minton said. “I think he’s primed for a big year.”
Miller also will be used at the two safety positions as well as at cornerback.
At cornerback, Gant will see time, especially against spread offenses, while junior Khyre Willis also will play corner back. Freshman Carter Williams, Hamer and Thomas also will play cornerback for the Eagles.
Gone from the Eagles’ defensive backfield a year ago is second-team All-District 7-1A selection Tyler O’con.
Lux will serve as the team’s punter, while Grizzaffi will fill the kicking role.
In the return game, Brooks Thomas will be used on kickoffs and punts, while Grizzaffi and Daigle also will be used in those areas, too.
Thomas was a first-team All-District 7-1A kick returner a year ago. In 2017, he returned three kicks for touchdowns.
The Eagles’ nondistrict schedule features Class 2A Pine, Class 3A Archbishop Hannan, Southside and Class 4A Vandebilt Catholic. The Southside game, which will not count for power points because Southside is not a full-fledged member of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association yet, replaces the False River Academy game. The change was made after False River elected to play a junior varsity schedule this season.
In District 7-1A, Central Catholic will meet Gueydan, defending Division IV state champion Lafayette Christian, Highland Baptist, Hanson Memorial, Centerville and Vermilion Catholic.
“For the last four years that I’ve been in this district, we’ve had two teams in the semifinals every year,” Minton said. “We were fortunate enough two years ago to be one of those teams. Last year it was VC and LCA, so we play in a tough district.”
The Eagles will compete in jamboree action Thursday when it travels to face Centerville at Centerville. The squad opens the season Aug. 30 at home against Pine.