Tigers have eyes set on ultimate prize in Williams’ first year
DONALDSONVILLE –For the first time in five years, Donaldsonville enters a season with a new head football coach. Terance Williams takes over the reigns of a Tigers’ program that has made the playoffs four consecutive years in a row.
“The entire move was a real good vantage decision,” Williams said.”I am originally from Baton Rouge so I have passed around here coaching in the area and this gave me a chance to come back. Donaldsonville has done well in the past and I think it is going to be a real good fit.”
Williams, a Belaire graduate, was formerly head coach at Leesville the past two seasons where he led the Wampus Cats to a 16-7 record. He takes over for Gary Adkins, who was 36-19 in his five seasons at Donaldsonville leading the Tigers as far into the playoffs as the quarterfinals in 2007.
“These guys, especially these seniors, they are looking to get to the ‘Dome,” Williams said. “That is something that hasn’t happened around here since the mid 1950’s. That is our on-field goal. Off the field, our goal is to get everybody in school to graduate and go to college or start a career becoming productive citizens. It is going to be a change for them with a different system offensively and defensively and almost a complete overhaul of the coaching staff. A lot of things are different in our approach to the game.”
Donaldsonville returns over 20 seniors and 16 starters from a year ago when they won the District 7-2A championship for the second year in a row and finished 9-1 before being ousted by Loyola Prep in the regionals. However, the Tigers move into a new district this season with the likes of perennial contenders Clinton, Capitol, Episcopal and University.
“These guys have done a good job of showing up all summer and they put in a lot of work,” Williams said. “Kids handle change better than adults do. It is human nature to not like change and everybody wants success but nobody wants change. Adjustments to the new schemes will be a weakness as well as adjustments to new philosophies but anytime you have a change in the coaching staff, you are going to have a change in philosophy. There is nothing to really say about our speed. They can run and if you can run, you can make up for a lot of other things.”
OFFENSE – Donaldsonville moves to a spread offense this season from the triple option attack that had become accustomed with the program. LSU freshmen Michael Ford rushed for 3,000 yards in the system under Williams last season at Leesville.
“We are going to a no huddle, shotgun spread offense,” Williams said. “We are not going to be a pass first team. We are still going to run the football because you have to be able to run the ball to win championships. It is going to be a big change but if you are an athlete, you are an athlete. We put one of our best athletes at quarterback and let them run around. It works well with these type of athletes and they are having a good time with it.”
Sophomore right-hander Devon Breaux will take over the reigns of the system after the departure of Laine Bailey, a first-team all-district selection who rushed for 800 yards and 11 touchdowns last season while also throwing for 12 more scores. Freshmen Drew Rosemond will be Breaux’s backup.
District MVP Bryant Dunn does return to the backfield for his senior season after rushing for 1,600 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. Dunn also had 950 yards and 11 touchdowns in his sophomore campaign. Senior Antonio Smith, a four-year starter in the program, also returns to the backfield and is joined by fellow senior Justin Breaux, the Class 2A 200-meter champion. Others who may get totes include senior Jordan Rosemond and juniors Titus Howard and Shaqueel Babin.
“(Dunn) did well last year but we are going into a different district so the bar is going to be set pretty high,” Williams said. “If he can carry the load, it is entirely up to him how he progresses but we have tons of kids that hopefully we can get the ball to and see what they can do. We have quite a few kids that need to touch the ball.”
Donaldsonville returns two all-district first-team selections to an offensive line that helped pave the way for 3,500 yards rushing last season in seniors Dwight Wright, another four-year starter, at guard and Denzel Butler at tackle. Also returning is senior Joshua Williams at guard, while sophomores Courtland Joshua and Devin Allen will play center and guard.
“They have done a really good job of adapting to our new zone schemes,” Williams said. “We are trying to get everybody to play just on one side of the ball and Dwight is actually only going to play defense this year. You have to have that kind of depth in order to get through five weeks of the playoffs.”
Junior Jarrett Cole returns to the receiving corps after earning first-team honors at tight end and will be joined by senior Todd Joseph, a second-team pick, along with Smith and Rosemond.
“It is going to be different and new for them,” Williams said. “It is a different system where they are expected to catch the ball when we throw it to them but they are doing well with the transition. Jarrett can play anywhere and we are going to try and get him the ball. Antonio is a great athlete and has great feet and good hands.”
DEFENSE – Donaldsonville is also changing its defense moving from its signature 4-4 to a 4-3 Cover 2
“Some people call it the Tampa 2,” Williams said. “The linebackers are going to be the strength of our defense and they are kind of the heart and soul of the scheme. You have to have great linebacker play and they are coming along.”
The Tigers return three starting linebackers from last season led by senior Akiee Turner, a four-year starter who earned first-team all-district honors after registering a team-high 83 tackles and six fumble recoveries. Turner will be joined by fellow seniors Jeremy Dunn and Tre` Sullivan who both earned second-team recognition last season.
Joining Wright on the front will be senior Henry Mitchell, a first-team all-district pick after recording 42 tackles, six sacks and three fumble recoveries and second-team all-district performer Robert Gipson, a junior. Senior Brian Foster moves from outside linebacker to end to complete the line.
“If you have guys playing on both sides of the ball, that is going to get you killed in the second or third round,” Williams said. “They have done a great job of conditioning this summer and our front seven is going to be pretty good.”
In the secondary, the Tigers will platoon Babin with junior Tre` Brown, a returning starter and sophomores D’Eric Green, Cortez Mitchell and Jeffrey Henry.
“Our secondary is very athletic,” Williams said. “We have about six sophomores that can play back there. I hate using the term young because that is like an excuse but they are doing a great job and are expected to go out there and make plays.”
SPECIAL TEAMS – Devon Breaux returns to handle both kicking and punting duties this year after taking on those responsiblities last season as a freshmen.
Smith earned second-team all-district honors as a return specialist last season and will be joined by a slew of others including Babin and Justin Breaux.
SCHEDULE –Donaldsonville keeps river-rivals Brusly and playoff participant White Castle on its non-district schedule but adds Class 1A regionalist West St. John, a regular spring foe in the past, and cross-town rival Ascension Catholic. The third game of the season, Sept. 18, will mark the first time Donaldsonville and Ascension Catholic play in a varsity regular season football game in over 30 years.
“The non-district schedule is going to be good,” Williams said. “They are who they are. Anytime you have neighboring schools like us and Ascension Catholic playing, it is going to be very heated and very competitive. The same can be said of White Castle. Those games are definitely going to get us ready by district.”
After owning District 7-2A the past two seasons, Donaldsonville moves into a new district. The Tigers host Pointe Coupee Central to open the slate in Week 5 before traveling to Clinton. After hosting Capitol, Donaldsonville travels to Episcopal and University in consecutive weeks before closing out the regular season at home against Dunham.
“That is a very tough 2A district,” Williams said. “It is going to be decided each week on the field so we have to get ready to play 10 weeks. I believe in these guys because I want them to believe in me. I will never say who I think the favorite is but we expect to win the district. We go into every game expecting we are going to win.”
OUTLOOK – With a new coach and new systems on both sides of the ball, Williams believes the pace the Tigers adjust with play a big role.
“One of the biggest keys for us is how quick these kids buy in to the things we are selling,” Williams said. “ They are very athletic but they have to buy into what we are trying to do.
“I never go into the season with the idea of just making the playoffs or advancing to a certain round. Every team that I am in charge off, I want their eyes set on the big prize because if you don’t set the ultimate goal then you will never make it. Our eyes are definitely set at not just getting to New Orleans but winning. That is why we show up, that is why we are here and that is why we practice.”