LEESVILLE, La. (KPLC) - 2018 was quite the season for Leesville. The Wampus Cats had a perfect 10-0 regular season and reached the semifinals for the first time since 1995 before falling to Warren Easton.
“We got all the way to New Orleans and it was pretty evident it wasn’t good enough from our part,” Leesville running back D’Ante Gallashaw said. “I’m trying to make it over that.”
"Our focus in the offseason was fixing the things that we had to," Leesville head coach Robert Causey said. "Sometimes personnel you can't fix but what you do is look at your scheme to try and fit the personnel that you have coming back and then the processes and procedures that you have within your program that you need to improve on."
The Cats go into 2019 having to replace a lot of talent from a season ago. There's a glaring lack of experience on the offensive line as Leesville must replace every starter, most notably Nebraska signee Matthew Anderson.
"They're still playing as hard as they can," quarterback Jacob Mount said. "They put in the same work that everybody else has and they're getting used to it and getting experience for them."
"You don't just control the talent that you have," Causey said. "You just take what you have in your school and you try to utilize it as best you can. It goes back to fundamentals. No matter how talented you are, if you're fundamentals are strong it always gives you a leg up on your competition."
Leesville's offensive strength is found at the skill positions. The duo of Jacob Mount and Noah Allain return and will aim to continue lighting up defenses, but it might be the Wampus Cats backfield that truly shines in 2019. Jalen Shepherd returns from injury to join brothers Caleb and D'ante Gallashaw. D'Ante has gotten faster this offseason after rushing for nearly 1500 yards a season ago.
"I see that we have an advantage with speed against teams," running back D'Ante Gallashaw said. "Not many teams have that many studs in the backfield, so I think we have a great advantage."
"If we can't throw it one game we can do anything," Mount added. "We can run, we can throw, we can hand it off. They can all run and catch, they can do everything."
The offense will be leaned on to put up points as the defense gels early in the season, due to that side of the ball only returning two starters from a year ago. Leesville will lean on Darius Allen and defensive end turned linebacker Efosa Evbuomwan to mentor the young group.
"I definitely think my speed has gotten better from doing track," linebacker Efosa Evbuomwan said. "I'm getting more in shape and used to it because linebacker is a new position for me. Not only have I learned my position and where I'm supposed to be but they also have me micro-managing the defensive line so I can know where they are supposed to be so I can help the whole team be in position."
Leesville knows they have high expectations going into the season given their recent success. They're simply just ready to play ball.
“We have to show them that no matter where you’re from or what accolades you have in the past, it’s about what’s happening on the field right now,” Evbuomwan added. “Coach Causey always says we don’t care about all that. Just put the ball down and snap it and let’s play.”