Tigers ready to tackle brutal new district
The Donaldsonville Tigers are hoping that a change in offensive philosophy will equate to more wins and a third straight playoff appearance under head coach Benny Guilbeaux.
Donaldsonville has a big challenge in front of them. They must replace many talented players to compete in a brand new district that is overflowing with brutal competition.
The Tigers have done well in Guilbeaux's three-year tenure. They've reached the second round of the playoffs each of the past two seasons.
But this year, they'll be without some of their best weapons on both offense and defense.
Percy Cargo will be a huge loss for Donaldsonville. He was a force for the Tigers on both sides of the ball--excelling at both defensive back and wide receiver.
Also on offense, they will lose one of their best receivers in Jaquel Gant, along with productive wideouts in Jamal Dunn and Norman Simmons. They will also be without their feature tailback Tajh Gillard.
With the departure of so many key weapons, Coach Guilbeaux is looking to change the offensive identity of his team.
He feels that the strength of his squad is now their seasoned offensive line--which returns all five starters. Therefore, the Tigers will be transitioning to more of a power-rushing attack in 2015.
"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 offense will also bring back LSU commit Stephen Sullivan, but Coach Guilbeaux said that he wants to use Sullivan more on defense this season.
Tyler Brown will be back to lead the Donaldsonville offense at quarterback for the third straight season. Brown's running ability should be another huge asset to the Tigers' new offensive scheme.
Defensively, though the Tigers lose some of their starters on the line--like Floyd Foster--Coach Guilbeaux loves the guys he has coming back. One of those guys that he'll be counting on the most is Tulane commit Tyarise Stevenson.
He also thinks Jacoby Simon could emerge as one of Donaldsonville's key players this season as he plays safety on defense and receiver on offense.
The Tigers will have to deal with a brutal schedule in 2015. District 6-3A is filled with heavyweights. Defending Division II champion University High looks to be the favorite, along with Division II runner-up Parkview Baptist.
Other teams include West Feliciana--the team that beat Donaldsonville, 50-7, in last year's playoffs--along with Port Allen, Brusly, Baker and Glen Oaks.
Coach Guilbeaux wasn't thrilled with the change.
"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 hopefully, we can get back to playing some teams in our parish."
For now, the new-look Tigers will open the season with a non-district home matchup with Assumption on Sept. 4.
This will be the fifth year in a row that Donaldsonville has opened the season with Assumption. The Tigers are 2-2 against the Mustangs in the previous four matchups.