Bogalusa primed for deep playoff run
The 2022 season was a good one for Bogalusa. The Lumberjacks won eight games before falling 33-30 in a playoff thriller to Berwick.
Cyril Crutchfield has built the program into a winner, going 15-5 in two seasons. That development is no surprise.
With previous stops as head coach at Port Sulphur, South Plaquemines, St. Augustine, West Jefferson and Broadmoor and spent time helping restart the program at L.B. Landry, Crutchfield has three state championships under his belt.
While his first two seasons with Bogalusa were good ones, the 2023 season has a chance to be his best one yet.
“We are on target with our plan but unfortunately, our run last year ended a little earlier than we expected,” Crutchfield said. “We are continuing to build what we want to be and that is a championship caliber program.”
The Lumberjacks are experienced and talented, returning 15 starters from last season.
On offense, seven starters are back and it all starts with a brilliant player at the most important position.
Senior quarterback Ashton Levi (6-1, 195), who accounted for 35 touchdowns passing and rushing a year ago, is back to run the show as one of the best dual threat quarterbacks in Louisiana. Levi earned first team All-State honors in 2022.
“Ashton means everything to the program, he’s the face to the program,” Crutchfield said. “He’s everything. He works so hard. He shows up early. He’s a leader. We expect big things out of him with his arm but we will call on him a lot to use his legs to show people that he is a true dual threat.”
Senior running back Talyn Williams (5-10, 195) returns to add punch to a very good running game.
“Talyn played in the shadow of his brother and now is his time,” Crutchfield said. “This is not new to him. Hopefully, he can provide the punch to give us a good duo with Levi.”
While three receivers graduated, the Lumberjacks do have senior Dezmond Ramirez (5-9, 170) returning while senior Michael Edwards (6-2, 185) provides good size. Jayden Levi, the younger brother of Ashton, figures prominently as well and can line up at tight end or on the outside.
“The only one with significant snaps coming back is Ramirez,” Crutchfield said. “We have Ashton’s younger brother who figures in the mix. We are looking for production here with those we lost to graduation.”
The tight end is new in sophomore Byron Reed (6-0, 215).
Bogalusa is solid up front with four of five starters back.
That includes senior tackles Jayden Brice (6-2, 275) and Dayon Moses (6-0, 255), senior center Alvin Hughes (5-8, 185) and sophomore right guard Jakyrn Brock (5-9, 215). The new starter is junior left guard Makari Godbolt (5-8, 180). Brock was a first team All-District player last season.
“We have three returning starters and another player who played significant snaps last year,” Crutchfield said. “We feel good about what we have up front. We expect good things in pass protection and in the run game.”
The defense is even more experienced, with eight starters returning.
Up front, junior Joshua Cooley (5-10, 255) is the only returning starter. He is joined by senior Kenneth Keys (5-11, 295) and sophomore Bryson Peyton (6-2, 200).
“We lost a five-year starter and another prominent player to graduation so we are still figuring it out,” Crutchfield said. “We feel good about our young players but they have to step up.”
Three starting linebackers return to provide punch at the second level in seniors Michael Burton (5-9, 180) and Jakeem Smith (5-10, 175), along with junior Dyron Jackson (5-10, 175). The new starter is Jaylon Keys (5-8, 170). Jackson was a first team All-District performer last season.
“Burton was first team All-District a year ago and we will count on him heavily,” Crutchfield said.
The secondary is simply outstanding, with every starter back.
The corners are senior Aquinton Roberts (5-9, 160) and junior Leandes Lester (5-9, 150) while the safeties are senior Ayden Sampson (5-9, 170) and junior Lance Jackson (6-2, 175). Sampson and Jackson were both first team All-District players in 2022.
“We are really strong in the secondary with some potential college players,” Crutchfield said. “We are experienced and athletic. All four played last year.”
Jackson will handle punting and kicking duties and he is the primary return man as well.
The schedule will be tough to navigate.
The Lumberjacks open with three straight tough road games, starting at rival Franklinton before two straight trips to Slidell to take on Slidell High and Salmen. A pair of challenging home games follow against 8-5A favorites John Ehret and Chalmette.
“It worked out pretty good last year, going 4-1, and the one loss was very late to Slidell,” Crutchfield said. “It is a very tough, challenging schedule. Coach (Nick) Saltaformaggio is a state championship coach. Slidell won its district and Coach (Malter) Scobel does a great job. Salmen is a veteran, good team. Ehret has athletes all over the field. Chalmette has always given me problems wherever I have coached.”
District 7-3A play begins with a bang at home against perennial power Amite before a trip to Jewel Sumner. After hosting Pine, the Lumberjacks conclude the regular season at Albany.
“Amite is a program that wins state championships,” Crutchfield said. “We have not lost a district game in two years but this is a very good league. Sumner, Pine and Albany all have good coaches and players.”
The schedule is very tough but so is Bogalusa.
With talent, a superb quarterback and a championship coach, the Lumberjacks are ready to roll in 2023.
“Our expectations will always be the same, to win championships,” Crutchfield said. “Those nine games we play will dictate our seed. We play a tough schedule to get a good seed. We need to do everything possible to get a good seed. We have to beat good teams. If we do, we can get hot and make some real noise and make a deep run in the playoffs.”
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…