7-in-Seven Countdown: Top Surprise Teams in 2022

Published: Jul. 11, 2022 at 11:24 PM CDT
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SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA (KPLC) - We are just weeks away from KPLC’s coverage of 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 surprise teams this upcoming season. The only criteria for teams selected is that they must have had a losing record the season before.

We continue the countdown with the top seven Touchdown Live surprise teams heading into the season.

7. Jennings Bulldogs (4-6 in 2021)

Starting this weeks list are the Jennings Bulldogs who won less than five games in the regular season for the firs time since 2018. The bulldogs return 11 starters from a season ago, but lose their bell cow Trevor Etienne to the college ranks. His presence on the field will be missed.

To keep the ball rolling they will rely on sophomore running back Rajhon Zeno and senior rusher Jamaric McZeal who come into this season aiming to be a two headed monster. The bulldogs will have a tough task in replacing their entire offensive line with young talent. That unit will have to hold a tight pocket for either Austin Ewing or JJ Benoit who are in a battle for the starting quarterback job. Ewing was the starter last season but went down with an injury in week four.

In his return to the field he will aim to use 6′2 195 Ibs frame in more ways than one. Ewing has the ability to line up at receiver and tight end for the J dogs and it will be a huge boost for their offense. Meanwhile, Benoit is developed beyond his years and has a good arm and command of the offense. It will be interesting to see who comes out with the starting nod come week 1.

Defense is where the strength of this team will be with a lot of guys coming back from last season. Leading the unit will be all-district defensive lineman Cory Hebert along with Zy Citizen. The hope is that this group will take another step forward once the season kicks off.

6. Sulphur Golden Tors (6-4 in 2021)

Taking the number 6 spot are the Sulphur Golden Tors who did a lot better than some predicted in 2021. The Tors return 16 starters from last season and the key component from that bunch is quarterback Gage Trahan who threw for almost 2,000 yards last season. The tors offense loses all-district play maker Tag Stelly who is off to play at the next level for McNeese.

But Trahan will have a solid receiving core that returns all-district wide receiver Kaden Blalock, Jonathan Hopkins, Ashton Alston and big target tight end John David LeFleur who will use his 6 foot 7 frame to make plays all season long. The Golden Tors rushing attack will be a three headed monster that consists of Garrisson Burgess who makes the switch from cornerback to running back, Kaden Sadonyo and Demarcus Williams who’s coming back from a torn ACL.

Sulphur is switching to a 3-4 defense to better suite their personnel that returns all the members of their secondary and 3 returners on the defensive line. Outside Linebacker Peyton Lemaire and inside line backer Cory Hyatt will help lead the unit that aims to limit big plays and execute in order to build off their third-place finish in district 3-5A.

5. Kinder Yellow Jackets (4-6 in 2021)

The next team on the list is known for being scrappy and is coming off another playoff appearance. The Kinder Yellow Jackets who return 16 starters from last year’s team. Both the offense and defense return 8 starters and speaking of the yellow jacket offense it will be led by senior quarterback Graham Fawcett who will have plenty of weapons around him.

Senior wide out Daveon Matthews will lead the receiving group which also features James Roberts and Noah Romero who will be making plays out of the slot. The yellow jackets run game will have a 3 man rotation that includes Logan Lebeouf, Jordan Pelican and Jaren Johnson who’s also the leader on defense at inside line backer.

That side of the ball will rely on him to fly around and make plays. Kinder’s secondary will be replacing 1 starter from last season at cornerback and the defensive line returns two starters. This is a young but experienced team heading into 2022, but head coach Bret Fuselier expects them to be aggressive and compete week by week.

4. Washington - Marion Charging Indians (5-4 in 2021)

Washington-Marion makes an appearance on the list after returning to the field in 2021. The finished 5-4 and came up just short of making a playoff appearance in tough battle against Rayne.

The Charging Indians return 13 starters from last season, but one of them isn’t Justin Thomas at quarterback. This season Landon Braxton will be the starter for Washington-Marion, but they do have two other players that can fill in during certain situations. The offense returns the running back tandem of Derrick Paul and Jordan Condoll. Washington-Marion will aim to run the rock a lot with a young offensive line that returns three starters. In addition, the offense will aim to make some plays in the passing game by getting their play makers in space.

The defense returns seven starters from a season ago and will show multiple fronts to match up well against who they play on a week to week basis. Even though they lose line backer Ray Thomas they return KeyShawn Stevens at safety and Jordan Condoll will line up on defense as well. The strength of this unit will be the box 7 and helping to lead the charge will be linebacker Ezra Porter, defensive end Kade Rogers and line backer Chris Brown.

This roster is filled with a lot of veterans but there are a few underclassmen who will get some playing time this season. Ultimately the Charging Indians want to make a playoff run and continue to grow the program under second year head coach Jules Sullen.

3. Barbe Buccaneers (4-6 in 2021)

Coming in at number three we have the Barbe Buccaneers who return a huge piece in their offense with Will McClain, but he also gets his top receiver back as well. McClain will be able to throw to Jamaal Levi once again in 2022, after Levi accumulated 1,538 receiving yards, and 19 touchdowns in 2021.

As for the defense, the Buccaneers will have Kandyn Cordova in the secondary to bring back some experience from a season ago. He will be a big part in the Buccaneers mission to improve upon their 4-6 record from 2021. In addition, there’s also a good nucleus of young talent that will get a chance to make some plays when their number is called upon.

2. Hamilton Christian Warriors (7-2 in 2021)

Hamilton Christian was very competitive in Class 1A last season and they aim to be the same heading into 2022. They welcome in new head coach Ragan McDaniel who’s bringing the air raid offense with him.

To help get the offense going will be Tanner Hoover who McDaniel describes as a film junky. He’ll be charged with leading an offense that aims to spread the ball into the hands of its playmakers and among those on the outside are Sammy Knight, Juvan Vital, Travis Bolden jr. and Justis Ridaux.

The offensive line will consist of Malachi Nolen at center, Milyn Lews at left guard and Dillon Harmon at right guard. All three are team captains and have already shown a lot of leadership qualities.

The defense will undergo some changes as well. It will be moving to a 33 stack front and has a lot of size and speed. The box seven is going to be the strength of this unit and helping to get everyone lined up will be junior middle line backer Kylan Alexander. The biggest returner in the box seven is all-district defensive end Messiah Simien. A hybrid guy that will make some players is Davon Zachary who will line up at defensive end and sometimes linebacker. His versatility will be big for this unit as well as the presence of big corner Noah Larue who’s gained the attention of Lamar University and McNeese. Larue is 6 foot 2 185 Ibs and can run with a lot of receivers.

Coach McDaniel says he expects his team to compete for the district title once again and will look to be balanced.

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1. St. Louis Catholic (4-6 in 2021)

The Saints went through a learning curve last season. They got a new head coach and were still trying to get back into a good flow after dealing with the storm season of 2020 and the challenges that brought.

Despite that, the Saints come into 2022 with a lot to prove and will be returning 90% of their roster. Offensive they return James Reina at quarterback who took a step in the right direction during the offseason by working on his decision making and gaining a better flow of the offense. In addition, Reina will have his receiving corp from last season in tact and leading that group is Grant Evans who had over 900 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in 2021. He along with Brooks Habetz an Trey Tate will bring a lot of experience back to that side of the ball as they look to compete for a district title.

The defense returns a lot of faces from last season as well. Both inside line backers in Graham Montet and Luke Mere. The defensive line all return as juniors and the defensive back field will be young with the return of Kyle Turner and Luke Pearson. This unit will does lose Marcus Duhon who did a lot for the Saints last season. He played defense, returned kicks and punts on special teams and played on offense. Duhon finished 2021 with five interceptions, 12 touchdowns and over 1,000 yards receiving.