CROWLEY – Although it may not count for much of anything as far as records go, tonight’s Acadia Parish Football Jamboree in Iota is the chance for the local teams to get in their final tuneups before the regular season begins on Aug. 31.
It’s a chance for coaches to see where their teams are and put the finishing touches on what has already been a long offseason.
“This is the final dress rehearsal, and it is that, a dress rehearsal,” said Crowley High coach Josh Fontenot, whose team will take on Rayne at 6 o’clock in the first of two games slated on the night. “It’s your last chance to finalize your personnel, to make sure all your special teams are straight and to make sure your sideline organization runs smooth.
“And for the kids, it’s their first taste of a real game as far as the pace of it and getting in that game shape a little bit.”
Although both teams scrimmaged last week, the biggest difference in the jamboree is that it will be more of a game-type situation with the game clock and the play clock running.
For Fontenot, his main focus will be on special teams.
“For us, with the no-huddle, the play clock is usually not a big issue,” said Fontenot. “But where you want to be really sharp is your substituting on special teams. A lot of times on special teams, you have guys that have not played a lot. It’s one thing to simulate it at practice when you have their named called out and you run on.
“In a game, if you’re not paying attention, you end up having to call a timeout. What I’m looking for is for us to have that part of it smooth.”
Fontenot’s other concern, of course, is his opponent.
After starting 5-0 last season, the Rayne Wolves dropped their final five district games and entered the playoffs as the No. 26 seed. The Wolves returned to early season form in postseason play and won back-to-back games to advance to the quarterfinals where they were defeated by eventual state champion St. Charles.
And the Wolves return the bulk of their 2011 team with eight players coming back on offense and six on defense.
“Rayne is really good,” said Fontenot. “You can tell that they are an older, experienced team.
“They run their offense extremely well and it’s very smooth. It’s wing-t so it’s hard as it is and when you get a team that has a lot of experience and some good backs to go with it, it makes it even more difficult for you.”
Clarence Leger returns at quarterback as do the Wolves two leading rushers in Jalen Williams and R.J. Buchanan.
Leger completed 50 passes for 905 yards and 10 touchdowns during his junior campaign while Williams led the ground attack with 1,200 yards and 15 touchdowns on 190 carries.
“They are going to run the ball,” said Fontenot. “They can throw more than what traditional wing-t teams have in the past, but they are going to run because that’s what they do. They have three really good running backs, all on the field at the same time. And the quarterback can run too.
“I don’t expect much throwing out of them but it’s one of those things that if you don’t respect the throwing game, all of the sudden they’re 2-for-2 with two touchdowns.”
Defensively, the Wolves return six starters and a defensive line that averages 260 pounds across the board.
“On defense, they are very big up front,” said Fontenot. “They are as big as any team that we are going to see this year.
“They have a couple of really good linebackers, their secondary is experienced and they have some kids that will come up and hit you.
“This is a Rayne team that, for us, is extremely talented to play. I’m impressed with them on film and I’m excited to play them.”
For the Gents, who racked up 166 yards and two touchdowns last week in the scrimmage, it’s all about consistency.
“Big plays are fine, and we live off that a lot, probably more than we should, but we need to be consistent,” said Fontenot. “I need to know that when we throw the ball on first down that we can complete it because we need to be able to throw it on first down. I want consistency out of the whole offense. That’s the main thing.”
Last week, senior quarterback Andre Mills completed four passes for 88 yards. Thomas Cavell had two receptions for 64 yards and a touchdown while Chanz Moore and Danny Malbrough each had one.
Malbrough also led the Gents on the ground with nine carries for 42 yards and Mills rushed five times for 36 yards.
Defensively, the Gents have to improve on their tackling. Although they held Beaux Chene to 157 total yards, 114 of them came from running back Jamal Chevis on seven carries.
“We have to be able to tackle and this week’s going to be another challenge because of the backs they have,” said Fontenot. “We need to keep playing with the level of intensity that we played with in the scrimmage. Everybody to the ball, a very aggressive mentality. Bring the fight to them and not let it come to us. We need to do that but now we need to wrap up.”
Iota vs. Church Point
The Iota Bulldogs and the Church Point Bears will round out the jamboree when they take the field in the nightcap at 8.
Iota, which returns all but one starter on offense and has seven starters back on defense, had a respectable showing in its three-way scrimmage against Eunice and Kaplan. The Bulldogs scored one against Kaplan and held the Pirates out of the end zone but gave up two big scores to the Bobcats.
“Last year, we started off half decent in the scrimmage and never progressed along,” said Iota coach Neal Lege, whose team went 1-9 in 2011. “This year, we did half decent in the scrimmage again and now we’re trying to go the other direction. We’re trying to get better week to week.”
As in the scrimmage, the Bulldogs will be tested by another higher classified team in the Class 3A Bears, which earned the No. 7 seed in the playoffs last year.
Church Point returns just three starters on offense - quarterback Jake Morvant and running backs Gallen Williams and Devon Landry - but Lege knows that the Bears will still be tough to handle.
“The problems that they will pose for us will be their speed around the edges,” said Lege. “We had some problems against Eunice and even Kaplan on some plays with maintaining the edges. Church Point poses an even bigger challenge because I think their backs are even quicker than what we saw. They run those speed sweeps and those bucks very well. Their backs have good vision and they are good.”
Iota will counter Church Point’s ground attack with a solid running back of their own - returning starter Brandon Fantroy. The senior racked up 786 yards on 117 carries.
“ Brandon is running the ball real well right now in practice and he had a pretty good scrimmage where he broke off a couple of nice runs,” said Lege. “We just hope he continues to run well and stay healthy, that’s the key.”
Fantroy will have a steep hill to climb as Church Point returns six players on the defensive side, including All-State nose tackle Dexter Charles, while Iota returns seven.
“Technique wise and execution on offense, we’re just looking to get better,” said Lege. “That was big problem for us in the scrimmage. Too many blown assignments on blocking, backs running into the wrong holes, little things like that. They’re all correctable though so we’re keeping a positive outlook.”