De La Salle looks to take next step toward state football title in 2017
When you get a taste of being a championship program, you find yourself wanting more.
Such is the plight of the De La Salle Cavaliers in 2017.
After coming close in 2016 with a Division II semifinal appearance, the Cavaliers of Ryan Manale look to continue their success and are hungry to do so.
The renaissance of De La Salle football to an elite level has been remarkable under Manale. Going from being a forgotten, losing program to becoming a consistent winner while building a team with championship talent and character is already a special accomplishment for the program.
Manale guided the Cavaliers to the state playoffs for the fifth consecutive year last season, posting a perfect 10-0 regular season record and defeating Class AAA State Champion Lutcher for the district championship. It was the first district title for De La Salle since the Cavaliers claimed a Catholic League title in 1969 with Tyler Lefauci leading the way.
De La Salle advanced to the Final Four but lost to powerful Parkview Baptist 34-14. A new year starts this year and the Cavaliers take last year as a valuable learning and hope to make it to the promised land a berth in the Divison II State Championship Game on the Weekend of December 7-9 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Manale has made adjustments to his coaching staff for 2017 as assistant Willie Brooks, a former head coach at Helen Cox, was named head coach at Riverdale. Manale reached into his past to add longtime Archbishop Rummel defensive coordinator Eddie Jaquillard as his defensive coordinator.
The Cavaliers face one of the toughest schedules in the state as they open with 5A South Lafourche, before playing the first ever high school game at Tulane’s Yulman Stadium when the Cavs take on former Catholic League rival St. Augustine
It gets even tougher with a week three matchup against defending Class 4A state champion Karr. Following a bye, the Cavaliers square off with another defending state champion in Division III Riverside at Reserve. Week six has the Cavaliers taking on an up and coming program and new district rival in the Haynes Academy Yellow Jackets, who move up from Class 2A.
De La Salle then stays in the neighborhood, traveling to Lusher before making the trip to always tough St. James in week eight. Another showdown awaits in week nine against St. Charles Catholic, who made it to the Division III title game a year ago. The regular season concludes with new district foe Donaldsonville.
Manale has a host of talent to replace with the graduation of Josh Paul, Quincy Cage, DanQuan Edwards and Myles Ward.
There is significant talent returning, including senior quarterback Julien Gums (5-11,225) and senior lineman Jeremiah James (6-1,310), a Nicholls commit, on offense. Defensively, Tulane commitment Jamiran James (6-1 280) anchors the front while senior defensive back Lance Robinson (5-11,180)is an excellent player and a Kansas State commitment.
Other starters on offense include senior linemen Nick Guthrie (6-0, 250), Walter Johnson (5-10 230),Donte Lewis (6-3 205) and junior Bryce Fricke (6-3 255. Sophomore Noah Devlin (6-2 256) and freshman John Martin (6-3 338) figure prominently as well.
Sophomore Lemaj Kendrick (6-1 218) is the tight end while Kendall Baker (5-11 225) mans the fullback spot. Junior Kendall Collins (5-7 185) is the tailback while the wide receivers include senior Aaron Marquez (6-1 180) and B.J. Randle (5-10, 200), along with junior Jacques Juneau (5-9 178).
Joining James up front on defense are seniors Eric Hamrick (6-0, 236) and Accord Green (6-3, 220), along with juniors Nick Rader (5-11, 273) and Theodore Tyler (6-2, 220).
The linebackers are seniors Robert Lestrick (5-11, 236) and Royce Richardson (510, 210), junior Jordan Clark (5-10, 208) and sophomore Ashton Robinson (5-11, 207).
Joining Robinson in the secondary are senior Noble Scott (5-7, 160), juniors Marvin Nunez (5-8, 150), Quincy Thomas (5-7, 137) and Nakia Ealy (5-7, 153) and sophomore Jacolby Hankton (5-9, 161). Senior Fynn La Breche (5-11, 143) returns to handle kicking duties.
“We lost tons of speed from last year’s team,” Manale said. “While we still have some good players returning, time will tell if we can develop enough depth to compete with the tough slate ahead of us this season. It is a very challenging schedule. Our Expectations are high as we continue our path to greatness.”
Though the 2016 season ended in disappointing fashion, the Cavaliers learned from the experience.
“The loss to Parkview was tough to accept,” Manale said. “It showed some of our weaknesses that we need to improve on for this season in order to make another run to the Superdome.”
De La Salle is looking forward to the first ever prep game at Yulman Stadium.
“We are excited to play St Aug as they are a high caliber team and excited to play them in Yulman Stadium,” Manale said. “It is always good to be the first in any aspect and it will be a great Opportunity for both teams.”
Manale looks forward to measuring his team against a couple of state champions.
“Our kids are excited to play Karr and they are the kind of team we want to play to prepare us for the season as they were nationally ranked and state champions,” Manale said. “Riverside is a thriving program where they are good in all sports. They have size and speed and are well coached. You can add St. Charles Catholic to that list as well as they are an elite, well coached program, a pleasure to play.”
Manale feels his team is prepared for the challenge.
“If you want to be the best, you have to play the best and we have certainly scheduled that way,” Manale said. “We understand that and understand the task at hand and are eager to see if we can become the team we strive to be, a championship team.”
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Randy Pistorius is a lifelong resident of South Louisiana and is currently working in the communications field in the Baton Rouge Metropolitian Area. Randy’s start in journalism came while still in high school at De La Salle in New Orleans and that carried with him to Southeastern Louisiana University where he wrote for the Lions Roar and also worked in…