Young Dutchtown squad looking to turn things around

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
The Griffins will be led by Southern Miss commit and first-year starter at QB Jared Sparks. Photo by DKMoon Photography.

The 2014 season was one the Dutchtown Griffins would like to soon forget.

They finished with an uncharacteristic 4-6 record and were then dealt a first-round playoff exit. Also, for the first time in school history, they lost to both East Ascension and St. Amant during the same season.

The Griffins are ready to quickly turn the page and get back to the Dutchtown team that has competed for district titles year after year.

However, that won't be so easy.

Dutchtown lost many of their top stars from their 2014 squad. They'll be depending on many young and inexperienced players to lead them to a resurgence in 2015.

"This team will have to play together and with a minimum of turnovers and mental mistakes," Griffin head coach Benny Saia said. "We are inexperienced at a lot of spots and will have to make up for that with heart and hustle."

Offensively, Dutchtown will go as far as first-year starting quarterback Jared Sparks takes them.

Sparks has the talent. Despite only playing sparingly last season as he backed up two-year starter Brandt Fritsche, he was still offered a scholarship by Southern Miss.

He committed to the school back in June, and he's hoping to head to Hattiesburg on the strength of a huge senior season.

The offensive line lost many key cogs, but they still have returning tackle Lloyd Cushenberry--who recently committed to South Carolina.

All-district running back Fitell Bolding will be back sharing the backfield with Sparks. Bolding looks to be the feature back after splitting carries with Kajuan Coleman last season.

In the passing game, all-district wideout Cornelius Washington is back after emerging as a consistent deep threat in 2014.

Avery York is a versatile player that could be used as a weapon for the Griffins both at receiver and running back. He played both positions in the latter half of 2014.

"We will need a big season out of our quarterback Jared Sparks, who has all the tools to be very good," Saia said. "We also need our offensive line to grow and improve with each game to give our playmakers a chance to perform."

Defensively, the Griffins lost many great players--including defensive linemen Hunter Hill and Michael Tadda. They also lost linebacker and defensive leader Javad Ben.

In the secondary, they lost arguably the best safety combo in the state in Stanford signee Justin Reid and Minnesota signee Alonzo Craighton.

Though, the secondary should still be strong with the heralded cornerback combo of Coney Durr and Rickey Thomas.

Both players have received scholarship offers. Durr alone has piled up 20 offers that include Kansas State, Wake Forest and Minnesota.

Linebacker Terrance Lymon and defensive tackle Kyle Sarrazin are looking to step up and become integral parts of the Griffin defense this season.

"On defense, we need our defensive line to improve each week and help our linebackers make plays," Saia said. "Our secondary should be our strength. We must find a kicker and a punter."

Special teams haunted the Griffins last season. Reid was forced to kick while York was forced to take up the punting duties.

Dutchtown will not have to play heavyweights Archbishop Rummel and Destrehan this season, but their schedule is still no picnic.

They'll have to open with Lutcher--a team that beat them in 2014. They'll also play tough non-district opponents in Central (Baton Rouge) and Zachary.

Zachary is one of the preseason favorites to win the 5A state title in 2015 after going 9-1 and reaching the state semifinals last season.

Out of their three biggest district matchups with defending champ Catholic of Baton Rouge, East Ascension and St. Amant, they will have the luxury of playing two of those games at home.