Church Point looks to take next step on gridiron in 2019
It was a good year for Church Point in 2018.
The Battlin’ Bears went 8-4 and won a playoff game against West Feliciana before losing a memorable, epic 57-56 overtime game to traditional power Sterlington, who went on to reach the Class 3A state championship game.
It was a challenging schedule as Church Point faced all four 3A semifinalists.
The Bears should be good again in 2019 under veteran coach John Craig Arceneaux, who has led Church Point to eight straight playoff appearances.
“We beat the state champion in the regular season and lost to the runner-up in overtime,” said Arceneaux, who enters his 13th year as head coach and his 19th overall on staff at Church Point. “We proved we can play with the top teams in 3A. We just have to find a way to make that leap to become an elite program.”
While Church Point must replace some key players in tight end Ian Meche (Arkansas-Monticello), defensive lineman Ben Henry (Southwest College), linebacker Eduardo Briceno, quarterback Breelyn Jones and all-district tackle Hayden Lejeune, there is a host of talent returning.
The offense has five returning starters and will feature a powerful running game with a potent duo returning. Senior fullback Rodney Dupuis (5-6, 215) and junior halfback Gavin Richard (5-7, 165) are back. Dupuis rushed 150 times for 1,300 yards and 16 touchdowns a year ago while Richard carried 124 times for 961 yards and six touchdowns. Dupuis is just 725 yards shy of becoming the all-time leading rusher in school history. They will be joined in the backfield by senior Cavon Chavis (5-6, 160) at halfback.
“Being a Wing-T school, we are a run-first team,” Arceneaux said. “We have rushed for over 8,000 yards combined the last two years. Both Rodney and Gavin have started since their freshman seasons. Rodney is a quality guy who can become our all-time leading rusher and Gavin can do it all.
A pair of players are competing for the key quarterback starting spot in junior Dylan Stelly (6-0, 200) and senior Brandt Boone (5-7, 130).
“Jones had 80 carries or so a year ago and made some big plays running the ball last year and we must replace that,” Arceneaux said. “Both Dylan and Brandt will also likely play some on defense. Dylan played outside linebacker and was all-district last year. We can’t exactly take him off the field on defense. He will split time with Boone, who will play corner for us, also.”
Returning at split end is senior Macyn Bertrand (5-11, 155) while the new tight end is senior Dax Moore (6-1, 240).
“Dzx has big shoes to fill with Meche leaving,” Arceneaux said. “We will have to use him on defense as well. Macyn started a year ago and he has probably made the biggest move in terms of improvement since last year.”
A pair of starters return on the offensive line, including standout senior center Jace Benoit (6-4, 340) and senior right tackle Cayne Romero (6-0, 270). Senior Lane Richard (5-11, 195) is the left guard while senior Spencer Gotreaux (5-9, 280) is the left tackle. The right guard position remains undetermined.
“We will move Benoit to center from tackle and Romero from guard to tackle,” Arceneaux said. “Gotreaux came out for football for the first time last year and he has learned. We feel good about the group. Some have a lot of experience but not at the position they are going to play. We have spent a lot of time on scheme this summer to get them ready.”
The defense has six returning starters.
Up front, it is a family affair. Junior nose guard Tony Gibson (6-0, 282) is back and he is outstanding, coming off of a season in which he was in on 89 tackles, including 12 for loss. He will be joined by sophomores Armondo Gibson (5-6, 250) and Javen Gibson (6-1, 210).
“Javen and Tony are brothers while Armondo is a cousin,” Arceneaux said. “Tony is by far our best player on defense. He has a huge upside and has a good chance to play college football. He has size and he can run.”
The linebacker spot is well stocked with three returning starters, including a pair of stars in junior Dylan Stelly (6-0, 200) and senior Christopher Dailey (5-10, 165). Senior Dax Moore (6-1, 240) returns as well on the outside as a physical presence. Sophomore Andy Briceno (5-10, 185) is the other starter.
“Dailey did a great job last year while Andy will replace his brother, Eduardo, who was our leading tackler a year ago,” Arceneaux said. “Andy is undersized but he is athletic and hard-nosed.”
The secondary returns both starting safeties, including Chavis at strong safety and junior Ethan Castille (5-10, 160) at free safety. The new corners are Bertrand and sophomore Daylon Foreman (6-0, 160).
“We like our safety position,” Arceneaux said. “Ethan just got better and better and he will line us up right. We expect good things from him.
The schedule opens with a bang at home against defending Division III state champion Notre Dame before a trip to Southside. Kaplan and Opelousas will visit Church Point in weeks three and four. The final pre-district game is at St. Louis Catholic.
“When I took over 12 years ago, it was pretty easy to schedule,” Arceneaux said. “We don’t get those calls anymore. We have to play better people. We have not played Notre Dame in over a decade. They are tough and will be greatly prepared. Southside is a quality team. The last six times we played Kaplan, three have gone into overtime and two have been decided in the last minute. We have not played Opelousas in a long time. They are athletic. St. Louis has a bunch of athletes back.”
District 5-3A play opens at home on Oct. 11 against Iota before the Bears head to Northwest and Ville Platte. After hosting Mamou, the Bears close out the regular season at Pine Prairie.
“Iota has a lot of talent back and will be good while Montaze Sam is back at quarterback for Northwest,” Arceneaux. “If you are not ready to play when you get off the bus, you can get beat. It should be a very competitive district.”
If The Battlin’ Bears can find some consistency on offense and the defense can slow down the run, Church Point should make it nine straight playoff appearances.
“Church Point has made the quarterfinals just once, in 2013,” Arceneaux said. “The goal is to be a quarterfinal team every year. If we can get there, we can truly think about the dream of reaching the Superdome,” Arceneaux said.
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