West Monroe

Brooks Miller led the Rebels in interceptions last season and returns to West Monroe’s secondary this fall. (Photo by Tom Morris)

2018 Record: 14-1

Quote of the summer: “I feel like we shouldn’t have been in that situation anyway. Offensively, especially on the first pass play that we missed, it could have been six points. I missed Rylan Green wide open. That’s the stage you have to perform at.” —West Monroe quarterback Garrett Kahmann on last-minute loss to Zachary in the Class 5A State Championship Game. 

Overview: Kahmann taking ownership for a missed opportunity in the state championship game is the type of leadership you want to see from your senior signal caller. And in reality, that’s what this season is all about: ownership. 

West Monroe players and coaches own last year’s 27-24 loss to Zachary in New Orleans. The Rebels carry “what could have been” with them into the 2019 season. Because let’s not forget the Rebels rallied in the second half and led 24-20 with two minutes to play before an 80-yard touchdown gave the Broncos a second consecutive state title. 

“You don’t have to remind the players about that,” West Monroe head coach Jerry Arledge said. “They’re just as sick as we are. They just get over it quicker than coaches do. It’ll certainly be a motivating factor. And it needs to be with the non-district schedule we have.” 

It’s been eight years since West Monroe has won a state championship, and the road to the title gets tougher with what Arledge called the toughest non-district schedule he’s ever played. Opponents won’t cower in fear at the name of West Monroe because those opponents carry a reputation too. After all, Evangel has gotten the better of West Monroe in the past and Longview is coming off of a 6A state title in Texas. Say no more, right? 

But while last year’s team relied on one of the best defenses we’ve seen in school history — the 2018 Rebels didn’t give up a single point in their playoff run before losing 27-24 to Zachary — this year’s team will look to bully opponents with an offensive line that caught everyone by surprise last season. 

Offense: After an unblemished regular season, fans might find it difficult to believe there was some doubt surrounding this West Monroe offense a year ago. 

Victor Cutler, the ULM signee, was the lone returning starter on the offensive line, while the Rebels featured a new starting quarterback and tailback. That didn’t seem to matter. The Rebels went on to average 44 points per contest in the regular season. 

Now, what might have been questions a year ago are undeniable strengths. Kahmann will retain his starting quarterback position after throwing for approximately 1,600 yards and rushing for another 600 yards. The 6’3” ULM commit will give the Rebels the option to pass or run with his God-given skill set. 

And on the offensive line, the Rebels will have four returning starters. 

“If you look at last year, Victor Cutler was the only one who played much,” Arledge said. “Ethan Boyer had played some, but as a whole, they came around and really did an outstanding job. They turned out to be one of the more athletic groups we’ve had. We should pick right up where we left off last year.” 

Seniors Boyer, Blake Everett, Daniel Hawthorne, TJ Bush and Chaz Trichell will be a versatile bunch, capable of playing numerous positions on the offensive line this fall. 

But West Monroe will have a brand new starter at tailback to block for. After Cam Wright’s incredible 2018 regular season —380 carries, no fumbles and 41 touchdowns — Derome Williams is in line to be the next featured tailback, followed by Rayshawn Pleasant. 

“Derome took most of the snaps in JV last year, and he was a real workhorse for us,” Arledge said. “It’s hard to figure out where he’s going. He can cut on a dime and give you nine cents change.” 

Green will once again be the Rebels tight end, and he’ll flex out wide some in the offense, while Cayden Pierce will once again be the H-back. Arledge plans on using Pierce’s versatile tool set all over the football field. 

“He’ll play tight end sometimes,” Arledge said. “He may even be split wide some. He’ll possibly play some special teams too. He has really good hands. He’s a very sure-handed young man.” 

Split out wide will be who Arledge called the most improved Rebel, Jerry Day, along with Javari Sanders, Brett Norris and newcomer A.J. Fenceroy. Fenceroy transferred over from Bastrop, where he was one of Bastrop’s main offensive weapons a year ago. Fenceroy will be a slot receiver for the Rebels, and fans can expect several speed sweeps in the future with this talented transfer. 

Cade Pittard will handle the kicking duties for the Rebs. 

Defense: Much will be made of the mass exodus on the defensive line, but the Rebels return a good wealth of talent up front. It might not garner the headlines the 2018 unit did, but returning starter Malcolm Moore and Louisiana Tech commit Dontrell Cobbs will head a talented unit. Cobbs made one of the more impressive defensive plays of the year last year with a one-handed interception against Ruston (before ultimately taking it back for a score). 

“He’s another one of those basketball guys we talked into coming out years ago,” Arledge said. “And Malcolm, if he was 6’2” or 6’3”, he would be getting offers from all over. He’s been playing since he was a freshman.” 

Ty Allen is expected to get some playing time on the defensive line, especially if Arledge moves Cobbs inside on certain plays. Aidan Swanner, brother of last year’s standout defensive lineman Ethan Swanner, Aiden Bellot and Randall Hughes will all see time up front. 

At linebacker, the Rebels will return Tanner Zordan along with a couple of younger guys that have Arledge excited. Tag Banks and Brock Harvey are two sophomores that could become household names in the community after this season. Another linebacker that could see playing time is punter Peyton Todd. Todd is one of the highest rated punters in the country, but because of his big frame and hard-hitting mentality, Todd will play defense for the Rebels in 2019. The only question is where. 

If Todd doesn’t play linebacker, he’ll likely be lurking in the secondary with other talented safeties. Baylor commit Brooks Miller will once again lead a talented unit with fellow starting safety Brad Williams beside him. 

“Brooks has great talent and he’s just savvy,” Arledge said. “I was hoping he’d get a chance to play in the SEC. I can’t comprehend how you wouldn’t want a guy that can run a 4.4 (40-yard dash) and jump as well as he does.” 

Evin Wilhite and Latayeveon McFee will start at corner with Pleasant getting some playing time in the secondary, as well. 

District outlook: “When you come at the king, you best not miss.” 

HBO’s “The Wire” made this phrase famous, and really, you couldn’t find a more fitting quote for District 2-5A. The Rebels will get everyone’s best in district play because West Monroe continues to be the standard of District 2-5A. West Monroe hasn’t lost a district game since 2002.

But this year suggests West Monroe will be challenged more than any recent season. Alexandria Senior High might have the most talent in the district, and Ruston and Ouachita have come close in the past.

With the district only getting tougher, West Monroe’s dominant reign could very well be in jeopardy. Don’t tell West Monroe fans, though. They’ll have to see it to believe it.  

Award-winning sports writer for columns and features since joining the field in 2013. As the first-ever featured columnist of the month at Bleacher Report, Martin cut his teeth with online media before joining the newspaper business in 2014.

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