JENNINGS, La. (KPLC) - The Jennings Bulldogs have been one of the more successful programs in the area in recent years. The Dogs made the quarterfinals in three of the past five seasons and advanced all the way to the semifinals in 2017. However, miscues and injuries plagued Jennings a year ago as the Dogs finished just 4-7.
“We just didn’t have the right mindset, even going into the season," admitted Jennings linebacker Jacob Cooper. "We never really put in our full potential and after a few losses we just lost confidence.”
The Dogs will stick to their traditional split-back veer attack on offense but will do so with a lot of new faces across the board. Jennings returns just one offensive lineman and will break in a new quarterback. Junior Bub Wilridge brings leadership but breaks the mold of recent Jennings quarterbacks as he’s more of a traditional pocket passer.
“I’ve always had the arm, just working on getting more speed," said Wilridge. "I’m trying to read the defenses and the free safety on which side of the field so I look to the opposite side of the field to throw the ball”
“He has a real quick release and gets the football out fast," said Jennings coach Rusty Phelps. "Hopefully those are some things with a young offensive line that’ll help us with him getting the ball out fast that he’ll be able to get it to his receivers.”
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As the offense takes some time to get up to speed, they’ll lean on the running game to start the season. LSU target Trevor Etienne returns from injury and will be the go-to back along with junior Jalen Lewis.
“We saw glimpses of what Trevor could do last year before he broke his ankle,” Phelps said. "Hopefully we’ll plug him in at running back and he can help us in the running game.
Up front is where it all starts for the Jennings defense. Junior defensive tackle Keenan Landry already holds offers from LSU and Tulane and will be the anchor in the trenches alongside Mekhi Joseph. The linebackers and secondary return a lot of experience too as defense should be Jennings' calling card.
“We’re young, but we have some experience playing. You take Mekhi and Keenan; Keenan has been starting since he was in the ninth grade and Mekhi Jospeh started every game for us last year as a ninth-grader," said Phelps. "Jacob Cooper started a bunch of games around here for us at linebacker so you’ll see those guys with the leadership on defense.”
The Dogs have a daunting schedule with matchups against Leesville and Eunice to start the year paired with a district slate in one of the toughest 3A districts in Louisiana. They’re confident they have enough experienced talent to get back to playing the football the area comes to expect.
“This is really a bounce-back year for us this year. We have to get better," Jennings safety C.J. Wilridge admitted. "We have to do better than 4-6.”