Young Donaldsonville team finishes up spring practice
There were plenty of fresh new faces taking first-team reps for Donaldsonville during spring practice, but third-year head coach Benny Guilbeaux is confident these youngsters can step up come fall.
"We have some young guys that will be stepping up for us this year--especially in the secondary. It's tough replacing a guy like Percy Cargo," Guilbeaux said. "Linebacker-wise, we have some guys that haven't played that position in a while, but you have to learn some time."
As with most teams, their games are won and lost in the trenches, and Coach Guilbeaux thinks the Tigers are the strongest up front on the offensive and defensive lines.
"Up front, we have a lot of veterans. We have everyone returning on the offensive line and for the most part, our defensive line is returning," Guilbeaux said. "We lost Floyd Foster; it's tough to replace him also, but I think we'll have success running the ball this year because of that veteran front."
That has been Donaldsonville's mission throughout the spring: to transition to a downhill rushing attack that will cater to their seasoned O-line. The change in philosophy is also vital due to the Tigers losing most of their lethal receiving corps.
"In the past few years, we've been blessed to have a multitude of receivers like Jaquel Gant and Percy Cargo. We lost those guys along with Jamal Dunn and
Norman Simmons from our receiving corps," Guilbeaux said. "I would love for us to make strides in the running game.
"We lost our leading running back from last year, Tajh Gillard, and we have three or four running backs that should be able to step up. If we can run the ball between the tackles, we have two guys that are pretty quick, and we have a couple of sets that we want to use them in."
The Tigers have been trying to get these young players as many reps as possible, but it's been hard to do this spring. With things so hectic with track and final exams, it was a challenge to get everyone on the field at the same time.
"It's tough because I'm the head track coach, and we just finished up with track last week at the state meet. It's just timing. We're a smaller school, so it's tough to get everyone out with finals," Guilbeaux said. "We had a lot of guys going to tutoring, so it was tough to get everything we wanted, but I'm more looking forward to the summer and the fall to really get polished up in the areas where we need to improve."
Despite the low numbers at times, there were some players that stood out during the Tigers' spring practices.
"We have Tyarise Stevenson; he's already been offered by four or five schools and Stephen Sullivan (LSU commit) has been out here doing what he's doing, but we're probably going to be using him more on the defensive side of the ball this year," Guilbeaux said. "We have some newcomers like Jacoby Simon--who will probably play on both sides as safety and receiver for us."
All the work they've put in this spring is going toward trying to make the playoffs for the third straight time during Guilbeaux's tenure. Last year, the Tigers went 5-5 during the regular season and made a run to the second round of the playoffs.
This year, they'll face the challenge of a brand new district. District 6-3A is downright brutal and will feature the likes of: Baker, Brusly, Glen Oaks, Parkview Baptist, Port Allen, defending champion U-High and West Feliciana.
Coach Guilbeaux wasn't thrilled with the change, but his beef was not with the teams they will play but rather the teams they will not see each year.
"I wasn't in favor of it. I'm not trying to get away from the competition, but I didn't want us getting away from playing Dutchtown," Guilbeaux said. "I really wanted to get St. Amant on the schedule this year but with an eight-team district, we're going to have to chop that off. We'll have to deal with this for two years and then hopefully, we can get back to playing some teams in our parish."
Either way, Coach Guilbeaux is optimistic as the spring comes to a close.
"If we make it out of district, we have a great shot to make the playoffs again this year," Gilbeaux said.