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7-in-Seven Countdown: Top Touchdown Live teams in 2021

Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 6:44 PM CDT
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SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA (KPLC) - We are just two 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. Iowa Yellow Jackets (3-3 in 2020)

We kick off the list with the Iowa Yellow Jackets who make a return to the list for the first time since the initial rankings in 2017. The Jackets are coming off an up and down season, but with 12 starters back, the Jackets are confident to bounce back in a big way.

The Jackets transitioned to a pistol-based offense a season ago and will continue to run it with five starters back. The offense will run through running back Curtis Deville and his versatile skillset. The Purdue commit will line up all over the formation as evident by his nearly 500 yards from scrimmage last year. Deville is joined in the backfield by Koltin LeBleu at quarterback. He played in each game as a running back last season and is considered a true option quarterback. At receiver, the duo of Makel Montgomery and Crajaun Bennett should keep defenses honest thanks to their speed. The Jacket offensive line is similarly experienced with Hunter Ardoin, Jacob Kershaw and Erik Johnson Jr. back to resume their starting duties.

Iowa’s defense should be a fast one as seven starters return led by the defensive backfield. Bennett is back at corner along with Brycen LeBlanc, Jhaylen Moss and Montgomery. Linebacker Ross Denison is back as well and is considered the leader of the defense. The Jackets’ lone unit without much experience will be the defensive line with Keegan Bertrand and Kyle Arsement coming back as the lone starters from last season.

The Yellow Jackets built a schedule that should test them before district play and set them up to compete for the district title.

6. Basile Bearcats (4-3 in 2020)

We drop down to Class 1A as the Bearcats of Basile come in at six following a 4-3 season. The Bearcats finished shy of the quarterfinal round for just the second time in nine seasons a year ago. This experienced group of Bearcats will use last season as motivation.

The Basile split-back veer offense returns six starters including all three running backs. Ethan Bazinet is back after multiple 100-yard games as is Horace Edwards Jr. and Ashton Deaville. That stable of backs should help ease quarterback Luc Johnson into the starting role after running the JV offense last season. Basile returns skilled athletes at receiver too with Jared Thomas and Ethan Langley. The offensive line will look to be a strength as well as Anphrony Guillory and Gabe Fontenot anchor the biggest offensive line the Bearcats have had in years.

Experience is the name of the game on defense as well with seven starters back including the entire Bearcat linebacking corps. The coaching staff has plenty of faith in how Matt Francois, Deaville, Baylor McCoy and Edwards run the linebacking unit. The rest of the front seven will be pretty fresh with only Guillory back at nose guard. The Ethans, Bazinet and Langley will look to anchor the back end with good technique and positioning.

This group of Bearcats was close to competing for a district title a season ago and should be a favorite for the crown in 2021.

5. Leesville Wampus Cats (5-4 in 2020)

The Wampus Cats had a banner year in 2020 despite a less than impressive record. While Leesville only went 3-2 in the regular season, the Cats would earn their first-ever top-five seed in the playoffs. The team is hoping to build off that with a large 30-man senior class.

Leesville has been one of the area’s top offensive teams in recent years and the Cats should be near the top again with the return of running back Caleb Gallashaw. The senior had over 1,200 yards from scrimmage a season ago with 19 total touchdowns. He is one of six starters back on offense along with fellow back Layne Self (600 yards, seven TD). A big loss for Leesville comes at quarterback as they lose three-year starter Jacob Mount. The Cats haven’t named a replacement yet, but upperclassmen Parker Maks and Jerome Watts will battle for the job. While experience isn’t the receiving corps’ strength, whoever starts at quarterback will have some capable weapons. Tight end AJ Bush returns and he’ll be paired with wideouts Daveion Grubb, Ju’liun Culbert and Kemhari Pruitt. The offense will be protected by an experienced line however with Terry Evans, Mason Fitzgerald and Derrion Beebe back to resume their starting jobs. The Wampus Cat defense welcomes back five total starters with the back seven noted as their best unit. That experience begins with Pruitt, Gallashaw, Grubb, and Derek Beebe Jr at defensive back. That group helped Leesville hold their final four opponents to under 22 points per game. Nathan Mawae is also back at linebacker and is the team’s leading returning tackler. Meanwhile, the defensive line has to replace four starters from a season ago so the Cats will have to rely on plenty of new faces.

Leesville has been a consistent team in Class 4A with winning seasons each of the past five years. There is little reason to believe that streak won’t make it to six years in 2021.

4. Jennings Bulldogs (8-1 in 2020)

The Jennings Bulldogs slide in at the four spot after yet another deep postseason run. The Dogs have reached the quarterfinal round eight times in the past decade and they looked poise to make it nine times in 11 years.

Jennings is known around the country as the home of the Etienne brothers, and with Trevor’s senior season upcoming— it’s important for the Dogs to take advantage. Etienne, a four-star and likely future SEC running back, is one of only four starters back on offense. While Etienne brings back a wealth of yards (over 1,400 in 2020), Jennings has to replace plenty at the other skill positions. Tight end Clay Broussard is the lone receiver back after a big season. Running backs Rejohn Zeno and Jamaric McZeal will be relied upon in the Dogs’ split-back veer run gam along with wide receivers Wyatt Fontenot and Jeremy Blanchard. On the offensive line, it’s just Makhi Joseph and Jadon Smith making a return to the starting lineup.

Defensively, the Dogs are more experienced with five starters back. Nearly all of those starters come on the defensive line as Isley Mouton, Jayden Sonnier and Korey Hebert return. Rounding out the front seven will be linebackers Ethan Jardell and Owen Dugas, who played plenty in the postseason, tallying 13 tackles vs. Madison Prep. Safeties Aidan Ward and Seth Crader will have to keep the secondary in check as the Dogs break in a new pair of cornerbacks.

The Bulldogs will once again be expected to make a deep run and should be a favorite to reach the Superdome for the second time in three years.

3. Kinder Yellow Jackets (9-3 in 2020)

Class 2A powerhouse, the Kinder Yellow Jackets, come in once again as a top-three team off another state championship appearance. Unfortunately for the Jackets, only seven starters are back from that team but they come at core positions.

On the offensive end, the quarterback-running back duo of Graham Fawcett and Griffin Cooley should once again give 2A defenses fits into the Jackets’ pistol offense. Fawcett settled into his role at QB last season and has used these past few months to become a better passer to compliment his athleticism. Cooley, meanwhile, will look for an expanded role in the backfield and is considered a true home run threat after running for over 200 yards and three touchdowns in a crowded backfield a season ago. Brayden Guillory will also be expected to play at running back. Davion Matthews will lead the receiving corps after some big plays last season. The Kinder youth shows itself on the offensive line as only one starter is back in Jaron Johnson. Although, senior Caleb Nash has stepped up and is considered a team leader.

The Jackets are nearly as green on defense with only four starters back. Kinder will still be a speedy defense with guys like Cooley, Guillory and Landon Schmitz patrolling the secondary. Cooley and Guillory at safety is the team’s X-factor with their physicality. Also expected to make big contributions this season will be defensive end Jordan Pelican and linebacker Jaron Johnson who makes the switch from the defensive line.

While the Jackets will have plenty of new faces at starting positions, Kinder is a program that knows how and expects to win.

2. Grand Lake Hornets (9-2 in 2020)

The Grand Lake Hornets slide in at No. 2 following the best season in school history. Grand Lake used a magical run to reach the state championship, which sets up a foundation of expectation for years to come.

This Hornet team should be able to continue what the 2020 group started with 11 starters back. Offensively, Grand Lake’s split-back veer will once again be led by quarterback Connor Guillotte. He stepped into the role midseason and was a stabilizing force. His ability to run will be featured more prominently this year. Joining Guillotte in the backfield is returning starter Nathaniel Murrell. The explosive back will lead the Hornets’ running backs room that will include names like Kaden Taylor and Ian Vigo. While Grand Lake must replace their biggest receiving threat last year, Drake Sturlese and Kent Zaunbrecher each bring big frames to the table. The Hornet offensive should be a problem for defenses anchored by UL Lafayette commit, Bryant Williams. Williams along with Brett King and Kaleb Styron make up a fierce line that brings athletic ability and size to the table.

Grand Lake’s defense has a chance to be great with six starters back. Linebacker Grant Trahan leads an interior unit that will be the bread and butter of the Hornet defense. Joining Trahan up the gut will be Williams and King at defensive tackle. Safety is also experienced with Murrell back. The least experience portion of the Grand Lake defense will be at defensive end and cornerback.

The Hornets will be a fun team to watch as they try to build upon a historic 2020 season.

1. LCCP Trailblazers (9-1 in 2020)

LCCP tops our list for the second straight season after making a semifinal run, finishing with just a single loss all year long. The good news for the Blazers is that they return 16 starters from that team.

While seven of those starters are back on offense, the team has to cope with the loss of McNeese quarterback signee Dillon Simon. However, with weapons like four-star Tre’Vonte Citizen and three-star Keshlon Jackson, Josiah Bushnell’s development at quarterback should be able to be gradual and not forced. Bushnell shares a few traits with Simon, namely a strong arm and good speed. Speaking of speed, Citizen, an LSU commit, should be a different dynamic than in years passed at the running back position. Citizen is expected to be a bell-cow back this season after only averaging six carries a game a season ago. Despite his lack of use, he still managed 615 yards and eight scores in 2020. Jackson is back after a 500-yard season and he’s expected to lead a strong group of receivers that include Eric Beloney and Elijah Garrick. The offensive line may be the strength of the team as four starters return with two-star Reginald Burks anchoring the position. Also back are Jalyn Easton, Derian Rosario, Darius Green, and Kanye Caesar.

The Prep defense is also experienced with nine starters returning. The Blazers have three future college athletes at the linebacker position alone in Kevon Freeman (74 tackles, 4 for a loss), Daylon Sibley (91 tkls, 12 tfl), and Kendrick Pete (73 tkls, 10 tfl). LCCP also has a few college athletes in the secondary too with four-star Curly Reed, Kevin Thomas, and McNeese commit Joe Ward. Erick Franklin Jr. and Courtlande Collins will also join a strong back five. The defensive line is where the team took the biggest hit, but Darnell Taylor and Jaylon Landry are both expected to lead the group as returning starters.

The Blazers will come into the season as a favorite to win the district, and with a tough non-district schedule to boot, it should be a fun watch to see the team develop.

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