LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - The LaGrange Gators’ 5A experiment didn’t quite go to plan. The Gators slogged through a 3-16 record, including going winless a year ago. But with LaGrange’s move back down to Class 4A, coupled with a fresh slate, it’s a recipe for optimism.
"We are going to wear that 0-10 jacket. At the end of the season, we are going to take that jacket off and that's how the kids feel," said LaGrange head coach Marrico Wilson. "That's their motivation."
“It’s a program changer from last year, the intensity, the feeling, the vibe and just being a Gator,” added Gator nose guard James Christy Jr.
The problems were plenty last season as the Gators played larger schools week in and week out and did so with a defense that was never able to start the same lineup twice.
“It was really hard to have to throw in people on Friday nights, especially when you are in 5A,” LaGrange safety and receiver Cadiin Johnson admitted.
“After week one last year, our defensive line was depleted. We never started the same defense. If we can keep all of those guys healthy with what we have coming back, we should be pretty good.”
The defense in all will welcome back seven starters, led by nose guard James Christy Jr. who was one of the injured Gators. The secondary is experienced as well with most of it coming at safety with Malik Bertrand, Jalyn Williams and Cadiin Johnson locking down the back end.
On the offensive end, the Gators for the first time in a while, won’t have that one workhorse running back. Instead, the duo of Chad Victorian and Malik Bertrand will carry the load and make life easier on returning quarterback, Quintorus Jones.
Last year as a sophomore, he had his ups and downs in the passing game, but Jones often led the Gators in rushing. Jones admits that experience helped him mature and improve.
“I really didn’t know the game and I was a sophomore playing the first-year varsity. I was nervous and I thought I knew it all. Now I realize I have to learn this and that and I can get better,” admitted Jones. “I grew up a lot. I had to learn plays and learn how to stay in the pocket a lot more trust in my teammates and all that.”
“We are going to put it in his hands a little bit more this year,” said Wilson. “We didn’t let him run much last year, but when he did he was successful.”
Aiding Jones upfront is a line that welcomes back four of its five starters from 2018.
“I think protection-wise when we throw the ball, it will be good for us,” Wilson said. “When we run the ball it helps because they are all pretty big and have gotten a lot stronger this summer.”
The experience and desire is there for the Gators to compete in a new district and get back in the win column.
“We really want to show people in Lake Charles what we can do and how much talent we have on this team.”