The Dutchtown Griffins may have a new head coach prowling the sidelines in 2017, but they're hoping to return to the kind of consistent success they had in the past.
The Dutchtown Griffins may have a new head coach prowling the sidelines in 2017, but they’re hoping to return to the kind of consistent success they had in the past.
That success was achieved under Benny Saia, the first head coach the program ever had. Saia built the Griffins from scratch and kept building until they became one of the most successful football teams in the area.
During his 15 years at Dutchtown, Saia led the Griffins to 110 wins, four district championships and three trips to the state quarterfinals. In that time, they had a streak of 11 straight playoff appearances.
Though, his tenure came to an end back in March, when he decided to resign.
The next month, Dutchtown hired Livonia’s Guy Mistretta as their second head coach.
Mistretta is no stranger to Ascension Parish. His father, Bucky led Ascension Catholic’s football team to two state titles.
Guy followed in his footsteps and became a head football coach. In 13 years, he has won 116 games and two state championships at two different schools (Redemptorist and Livonia).
Now, he takes a step up in classification and takes over the reins as Dutchtown’s new head coach. There have been some changes to the rest of the Griffins’ coaching staff.
He has brought in former East Ascension offensive coordinator Keragan McCready to call the plays. Mistretta has also hired Catholic of Pointe Coupee’s Tim Lala as the new defensive coordinator, and former CHSPC and St. Michael head coach Paul Varnado will become the new defensive line and special teams coach.
Despite the drastic changes to the coaching staff, Mistretta said that he wants his team to duplicate the hard-nosed and disciplined persona of past Griffin teams.
“I want us to be a physical team, and that’s how Dutchtown has always been under Coach Saia,” Mistretta said.
The new head coach will have his work cut out for him in his first year.
The Griffins are coming off of a 3-7 campaign that saw them miss the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.
From that squad, they lose a Missouri signee at cornerback in Adam Sparks and other all-district players in safety Cameron Crawford, running back Chuckie Davis and defensive lineman Kyle Sarrazin.
They will also be without All-Parish defensive lineman Devin Mitchell after transferring.
Altogether, Dutchtown will only return eight starters in 2017.
Fortunately for the Griffins, they will bring back an experienced quarterback in Ben Mays. Mays took over as the full-time starter last season and played well down the stretch.
His favorite target, Noah Gray, will also return to the offense, as well as running back Brock Beaman. Jarvey White is also expected to get carries.
The offensive line will be anchored by returning tackle Noah Pitre.
Defensively, the Griffins should be the strongest in the secondary.
All three of their returning starters are in the defensive backfield. This includes cornerback Jordan Jackson and safeties Larry Hebert and Van’Shon Grayson.
Another player to watch on the defense will be senior linebacker Dillon LeBouef.
Coach Mistretta said that his young team “will have to work through the growing pains of implementing new schemes and a new philosophy into the program. There has been quite a bit of turnover in the roster as well, so the success of 2017 will be determined by how quickly they develop team chemistry. As always, senior leadership will be vital in helping talented, yet inexperienced underclassmen fill valuable roles throughout the lineup.”
Besides youth, another challenge for Dutchtown in 2017 will be their gauntlet of a schedule.
In addition to the weekly struggles of District 5-5A, they’ll have a brutal three-game stretch in non-district play to begin the year. This features back-to-back road games against Waker and Central and a home game against Covington.
They will also visit two-time defending Class 3A state champion Lutcher on Sept. 29. The Griffins have lost to the Bulldogs two years in a row.