SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA (KPLC) - We are just three weeks away from KPLC’s coverage of TDL: Two-A-Days and to get ready, we continue our 7-in-Seven countdown.
Countdowns will include topics from McNeese to high school football. A new countdown each week, beginning every Monday.
We continue the countdown with the top seven Touchdown Live teams this upcoming season.
*These are not head to head rankings. The rankings are in comparison to class.*
7. Sam Houston Broncos (8-3 in 2019)
The Broncos open the list after another strong season in Class 5A. Sam Houston grabbed a top-10 seed in the playoffs after an eight-win season and now the program looks for that elusive 5A playoff win to boot.
Sam Houston must find a new identity on offense with the loss of quarterback Kyle Bartley, tackle Jerren Gilbert and wide receiver Tavyen Grice. The Broncos may have a significant amount of talent to replace, but Big Sam has plenty waiting in the wings.
Offensively, there are seven players back with starting experience with three of them coming back on the offensive line. Colby Bertrand, Clayton Kemp and Donaven Henderson will be expected to lead the way on the line with Canaan Quinn and Saxon Slade as new starters. Sam Houston must break in a new starter at quarterback, although Luke Yuhasz enters with plenty of varsity experience. Yuhasz was a starting wide receiver a year ago (904 yards, 17 touchdowns) although he was used as a red-zone quarterback thanks to his running ability. His physical style behind the line of scrimmage will help open up running lanes for Dennis Gardere at running back. While the receiving corps loses over 2,000 yards of production from a season ago, slot receiver/running back Dylan Abshire returns as does Dom Myers. In addition, wideout Quinton Simon Jr. will be expected to carver out a role along with Barbe transfer Andrew Glass.
The Bronco defense loses five starters from last season although the coaching staff is excited about the linebackers and experience of the group. The backers are led by the trio of Josh Lemonier, Logan Jones and Marrion Atkins. The rest of the front seven will be rounded out by Glen Gorham, OJ Patterson and Gavin Savoie. The defensive backfield will be a speedy bunch with three returning starters. Dawson Richey, Nehemiah Ceasar and Keagon Aaron will be tasked with keeping up with the talented receivers of the district.
The Sam Houston program has become an elite football team in the area in recent years and the 2020 version should continue to live up to those new expectations.
6. Iota Bulldogs (9-3 in 2019)
The Iota football program has turned a corner the last few years and nowhere is that more evident than being a bit disappointed in a 9-3 season. The Bulldogs thought they could have gone further in the playoffs a year ago before losing in the second round.
Iota loses a senior class that played a big role in the team's turnaround but this next group has only seen winning.
On the offensive end, the Dogs must replace all-state rusher Luke Doucet along with only returning five starters. One of those returning is quarterback Dawson Wallace. The junior has added weight this offseason while working on arm strength and footwork. In the backfield, Tyler Charlot will aim to follow in his brother Tyrone's footsteps by being a playmaker for the Iota offense. Braydon Lavergne and Clay Doucet (Luke's brother) will also be expected to contribute. While replacing Tyrone Charlot's multi-use skill set will be tough, the Bulldogs are confident in its receiving corps to be productive. Zan Conner and Owen Harmon bring their experience to the table while Daylan Lunson's 4.5 speed and Seth Guillory's size will also be utilized. The offensive line will have starters Nick Hebert and Hanz LaCasse back with Diego DeSoto and Gage Monceaux carving out a big role.
The defense will also be lacking in experience, but Iota is confident in the seven starters they must replace. The front seven should stand out led by a strong defensive line rotation. Nose guards Ty Regan and Wyatt Gobert will plug up the middle with Ethan Zaunbrecher and Matthew Thibodeaux holding down the defensive ends. The linebacking corps will be led by Trevor Lopez. His 4.6 speed should help shut down opponents' run games. Doucet, Luke Duhon, Carson Crochet and Seth Shuff round out the rest of the unit. The defensive backfield will have a lot of fresh faces with cornerback Owen Daigle tasked with leading the way. Parker Hayes, Eli Ardoin and Ethan Myers will battle out for the other spots while Parker Seilhan and Jeb Decuir man the safety spots.
While Iota loses that strong senior class, the coaching staff is confident in the sophomore and junior classes’ talent to over the lack of experience.
5. DeRidder Dragons (8-4 in 2019)
The DeRidder Dragons are coming off their best seasons since 2013 as the team went 8-4 picking up a playoff win in the process. The Dragons return a wealth of experience to build off last season and improve on it.
The Dragons will be led by its experienced 4-2-5 defense. DeRidder welcomes back nine starters with six of them coming from the front seven. The defensive line is a senior-laden group that possesses good size, strength and chemistry. Derron Griffin, Demarcus Hunt, Brien Tellis and Quincy Archield have been starters since their sophomore year. The linebackers are a high-effort group with Chance Duncan and Dawson Hebert back as returning starters and Jose Mijares ready to take over the other starting position. The defensive backfield will see cornerbacks Isaiah Roberson and Isaiah Jackson reclaim their roles from a season ago along with safety Kaleb Luttrell doing the same.
The Dragons' gun multiple offense has seven starters back with quarterback KJ Gooden being the centerpiece. The dynamic signal-caller threw for over 1,500 yards while rushing for 800 a year ago. His main weapons in the passing game are back as well in Ross Picou, Ashton Broussard, Kagen Jacobs and Kai Lynch. Lynch will transition to running back along with Dakota Bergeron and Ronnie Crosby who are also expected to play big roles. The DeRidder offensive line will be stout as well with BJ Williams and D'Marcus Woods back to pair with Ryker Stewart, Adam Stracener and Jesse Williams. BJ Williams is the leader of the group and currently holds offers from McNeese, Lamar and Southern.
The Dragons were a physical team a year ago and once again should fit the same mold. The experience coupled with the team’s effort could lend itself to another solid season and postseason run.
4. Jennings Bulldogs (9-6 in 2019)
The Bulldogs are coming off a state championship game appearance and there is a belief in Jennings that this team is capable of making another run to the Superdome. A mostly young roster a year ago is now experienced and hungry to once again exceed expectations.
Jennings' success this season will come from the offense as nine starters are back led by future SEC running back Trevor Etienne. Etienne had a breakout sophomore season leading the Dogs with more than 1,700 yards and 25 touchdowns. Etienne's backfield mate returns in Jalen Lewis. Lewis was also a 1,000-yard rusher in 2019. Quarterback Bub Willridge completes the backfield after starting a year ago. Expect to see Willridge run the football more to give the Jennings' veer attack more pop. The Dogs' receiving corps is mostly intact from last season as Jacorien Palfrey, Traevon Achane, Tanner Istre and Conner Cassidy each bring something different to the table. Not only are the skill positions experienced— but Jennings also brings back four of five starters (Ethan Trahan, Maverick Broussard, Colby Tyler and Marlon Berry) across the offensive line.
Jennings' 4-2-5 defense came through with big stops during the team's playoff run last season although much of the defense has graduated with only four returning starters. The front six is the strength with three-star defensive tackle Keenan Landry anchoring the defensive unit. His size and experience frees the other lineman to make plays like Jayden Sonnier and Isley Mouton. The linebacking corps will be led by Kolby Estes who will take over the role of Jacob Cooper. Etienne will be expected to play some linebacker as well. At defensive back, interception leader Ethan Mack returns and will line up besides Palfrey and Achane, who both are expected to moonlight on the defense.
The Bulldogs’ biggest test will be a tough district once again, although the Jennings coaching staff believes the extra five playoff games last season will help make up for missing this spring.
3. St. Louis Saints (9-3 in 2019)
The Saints were one of three local teams to make the semifinal round of the playoffs a year ago and their returning experience should make them a threat to make another deep run.
The Saints' success in 2020 should start on the offensive end as St. Louis brings back 10 total starters. The Saints only key loss comes at wide receiver with the loss of the multi-talented Jadon Johnson (822 all-purpose yards). Running back Evan Joubert is once again set to lead the offense after totaling over 1,700 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2019. His endurance has helped him enter his senior season just under 1,000 yards shy of breaking the all-time St. Louis rushing record. In addition to Joubert, J'uan Seymore and Wesley Maze will be key in the run game along with fullback Hank Milligan. The Saints also bring back three-year starting quarterback Cooper Miller. Miller improved as a passer a year ago with over 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns. The receiving corps will also be utilized in both the passing game and running game as receivers Chase Wilson (520 yards, eight touchdowns) and Michael Lavergne both play tight end in addition. Arguably the biggest advantage St. Louis will have this season is a complete offensive line that brings back every starter from 2019 in Gabriel Hebert, Win Goodwin, Jack Spann, Patrick Collins and Miller Leach.
The St. Louis defense is also loaded with experience as seven starters return although the Saints will break in a new defensive coordinator in ex-Oakland Raider Jeremy Curry. Curry has college coaching experience and he'll aim to keep the same 4-2-5 system in place. The defensive line may be the strength of the defense with Maze, Kemal Robertson and Jalen Guidry all back to man their roles. John Reina returns at linebacker and will pair with Camden Watkins and Cody Lebato. The defense is rounded out in the defensive backfield with returning starters Josh Orsot and Gage Williams.
The Saints are hoping 2019′s success of a district championship and deep playoff run become the expectation. With experience and talent in tow, 2020 could very well match or exceed those goals.
2. Kinder Yellow Jackets (8-5 in 2019)
The Kinder Yellow Jackets come into 2020 with a ton of confidence despite losing multiple key players from last season's team. If one team in the area has proven to be able to replace talent with more of it, it's been the Yellow Jackets. Since 2015, Kinder is 46-20 and is ranked as the 35th best program in Louisiana during that time according to GeauxPreps.com's Dynasty Rankings.
Expect the Yellow Jackets to get back to their running ways in 2020 as Kinder must replace three-year starting quarterback Hayes Fawcett. A more run-oriented offense may actually be to Kinder's benefit running the flexbone as the team threw more than 10 times per game a season ago. Kinder brings back only five starters on offense however nearly all of it comes from the skill positions. Running back Ty Fuselier will be the workhorse after running for 907 yards in only eight games a season ago. Joining him as weapons on offense will be Dee Fontenot, CJ May and Darius Captain who all will be entering their third year as starters in what may collectively be the best group of skill position players in recent Kinder history. The quarterback battle will be an interesting competition as Griffin Cooley and Graham Fawcett will each aim to follow in their brothers' footsteps as a Yellow Jacket starting quarterback. Brayden Guillory will also have a chance at the job in fall camp. The team's biggest question mark however comes on the offensive line having to replace four of five starters. Dylan John is the lone starter back and will have to lead the group.
The Jackets once again will stay with the 4-2-5 defense as the team brings back six starters. The linebacking corps was the biggest improvement for the team a season ago and because of it will be the unit to watch this year. Senior Gavin Johnson will anchor the group with sophomores Kevon Freeman (72 tackles in 2019) and Jaron Johnson adding their athleticism to a fast group. On the back end, Kinder welcomes back a pair of starters in Cooley and Fontenot who will have to play both ways at times this season. Landon Schmitz and Makalean Trahan will also start on the back end. Like the offensive line, the defensive line will see a bulk of new starters. Defensive tackle Bryce Savant is the lone returning starter. Dylan John, Collin South and Ty Fuselier will be part of the rotation responsible for getting after the quarterback.
The Jackets have proven to be a solid team year in and year out under Bret Fuselier and this season should be no different. The Jackets’ tough out-of-district schedule could once again put them behind the 8-ball or propel them into a top seed come playoff time.
1. LCCP Trail Blazers (8-4 in 2019)
LCCP makes the list again following another strong season in Class 3A. The Blazers reached the second round of the playoffs and won the district for the second year in a row and now may be prepared for even higher heights.
The offense led the way for LCCP a year ago and likely the 2020 version of the team may be even better. The Blazers welcome back nine starters on offense led by senior quarterback Dillon Simon. The South Alabama commit is entering his fourth year at the helm of the offense and is a true coach on the field. Simon is a dual-threat as he threw for 1,983 yards and 19 touchdowns while running for 715 yards and 12 touchdowns in the 2019 regular season. The rest of the backfield is equally as talented with four-star TreVonte' Citizen is back after dealing with injuries a year ago. His skill set pairs well with Washington-Marion transfer Jathan Royal who is coming off a 767-yard season. The receiving corps is where the Blazers really shine with Solomon Lewis, Jaylen Joseph, Glynn Johnson and Keshlon Jackson all looking for big seasons. All four wideouts are either committed to a Division I university or have offers from one. Lewis is heading to Louisiana Tech, Joseph is committed to Grambling, Johnson has pledged to New Mexico State and Jackson holds offers from Virginia Tech, Michigan State, Kansas State, Virginia, Colorado among others. The offensive line also has the chance to be the best in LCCP history with four of five starters back and an average weight of 270 pounds.
The defense will continue to strive to match the headline-making offense, and it will get a chance with six starters returning. The defensive line will be led by big-bodied Jaylon Landry, Ian Richard and another Washington-Marion transfer in Darius Washington. The Blazers were forced to play numerous underclassmen a year ago and will now benefit this season. Daylon Sibley was a freshman in 2019 and now enters 2020 as the leader of the linebacking corps. In the backfield, Quentin Campbell and Lazarious Stevenson will play big roles in addition to Barbe transfer Joe Ward. The talented receiving corps will also be asked to play defensive back when needed.
The Blazers return a wealth of experience, leadership and talent in 2020. The challenge once again for LCCP is keeping the team on pace as they battle through arguably the top 3A district in the state.