2018 record: 9-3.
Quote of the summer: “We know the expectations have been raised.” — St. Frederick coach Andy Robinson.
Overview: The bar has been raised at St. Frederick. Coming off of a 4-7 2017 campaign, the Warriors were one of the state’s surprise teams in 2018. Finishing 9-3 and reaching the second round of the Division IV state playoffs under first-year coach Andy Robinson, St. Fred was one of the state’s biggest surprise teams.
Now the challenge is to sustain the success.
“Overall, I am very optimistic,” said Robinson, who was voted as the Class 1A Coach of the Year by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. “We have some good players coming back, but we did have some key losses.”
Among the significant departures were quarterback Andy Williams, who passed for roughly 1,500 yards, rushed for 1,300 and accounted for 26 touchdowns, and two-time All-State free safety Ford Sparks.
“We lost our quarterback and losing Ford is like losing our quarterback on defense,” Robinson said. “Andy and Ford were really good players, and they showed our younger guys the way. Hopefully, they are prepared to carry the torch.”
Defensive coordinator Billy Bell and offensive line coach Scot Lee bring a wealth of experience to the coaching staff. Among the recent additions include former Cedar Creek offensive coordinator William Parkerson and secondary coach Jim Rushworth, who begins his second stint with the Warriors.
“I am excited about our staff,” Robinson said. “Billy and Scot have been here for several years, and they both do a great job of working with the kids. Billy has been coaching high school football for 40-something years. William is going to help us out offensively and Jim is obviously going to be a great asset for us.”
Offense: Junior Alex Rightsell,who started the Bayou Jamb before moving to wide receiver for the regular season, takes over at quarterback.
“Alex went through fall camp with the starters last year, so he has some experience. He just lacks game experience,” Robinson said. “It will be his job. I thing he has prepared himself physically and mentally to direct this team. He is going to need to be consistent and efficient, and he is going to have to protect the football.”
Junior Colby Foster is Rightsell’s backup.
Junior Nelson Sparks is the most experienced running back. Also getting looks in the backfield are junior Jace Bernard, sophomore James Mayronne and freshman Michael Thompson.
Seniors Pat Johnson and Will Ellender and sophomores Connor Breen and Chris Bell are the wide receivers.
Brothers Beau and Gordon Bennett will split time at tight end and H-back.
Senior center Blake McMullen, a first-team All-District 2-1A selection last fall, heads up the offensive line. Juniors Brock Eppinette and Gavin Gilbert are the guards with senior Caiden Giovingo and junior Brendan Woods at the tackles. Sophomore Paul Pham could also factor into the combination.
Ellender, the reigning state champion in the 1600 meters, inherits the place kicking job vacated by All-State honoree Gavin Corder.
“Will made All-District as a punter and played some defensive back and wide receiver for us. He did some kicking last year, so he brings some experience,” Robinson said. “St. Frederick has a history of having some pretty good kickers and I expect that tradition to be upheld with what Will brings in the kicking game.”
Defense: End Denterrius McHenry, linebacker Gordon Bennett and cornerback Pat Johnson — a trio of seniors — give the Warriors proven playmakers at every level of the defense.
“We have a little more experience on defense,” Robinson said. “Hopefully they will be able to fly around and create plays. I am looking forward to watching them play this fall.”
A three-year starter at Bastrop, McHenry was a two-time All-District 2-4A honoree. Sophomore Beau Bennett returns at the other end with Gilbert and junior Jeremiah Willis manning the tackles.
Linebacker is perhaps the team’s deepest unit. Senior Gordon Bennett, the team’s leading tackler, junior Stephen Bourgeois and sophomore Tremaine Cleveland are listed as the starters with Mayronne and Jace Bernard as the backups.
“James Mayronne started the last six ballgames for us last year and made an impact for us,” Robinson said.
Johnson is a fixture in the secondary after snagging a team-high nine interceptions in 12 games. Among the others expected to contribute significant reps are Ellender, sophomore Jalen Francois, junior Gabe Haney and Nelson Sparks.
District outlook: Robinson’s penchantfor Thursday night games is reflected in the Warriors schedule. Besides the Bayou Jamb, St. Fred filled its schedule with three Thursday evening tilts.
“When I was growing up in Delhi, Delhi and Oak Grove always played Thursday night in Week 1,” Robinson said. “I have always wanted to play football on Thursday night in Week 1.”
Robinson’s wish will be fulfilled when the Warriors open the season at D’Arbonne Woods (Sept. 5) in what will be the first regular season game on the Timberwolves’ new turf field.
Closing out the regular season on back-to-back Thursday nights in Weeks 9 and 10, the Warriors visit Ouachita Christian and host Delhi, where Robinson’s father was once the head coach, in the season finale.
“We play OCS Halloween night, and we all know what that game means to both schools,” Robinson said. “I think Thursday night is a really good spot for us. Obviously, we want to draw the biggest crowds we can. Playing on Thursday also allows our kids time to go watch their friends play at other schools, and gives our coaches a chance to go see other games.”
Thanks to its aptitude for winning close games, St. Fred (6-1) finished second behind Class 1A state runner-up Oak Grove in the district standings last year. Five of the Warriors’ conference victories were determined by eight points or less.
Oak Grove remains the favorite until someone proves otherwise.