De La Salle seeks to bounce back from season of challenges

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De La Salle football

The first year on the job for De La Salle graduate and former Cavalier player Graham Jarrott was challenging.

Jarrott returned triumphantly to his alma mater after being part of state championship staffs at Jesuit and Archbishop Rummel, taking over for Ryan Manale, who built the Cavaliers into a consistent winner and into three Division II state championship games in nine seasons before departing for Jesuit.

Jarrott understands what it takes to reach those levels as well.

In 2021, the Cavaliers won six games on the field but had to forfeit three wins due to an unfortunate, unintentional player eligibility issue.

The result was De La Salle going from being a top three seed to being the 10th seed and having to face the best team in the class, eventual state champion University Lab, in the quarterfinals.

The Cubs won 29-7 and went on to capture the championship.

Now, in year two, Jarrott is ready to put his stamp on his alma mater and return the Cavaliers to prominence.

“We were one play away from beating St. Charles Catholic and one play away from beating Hahnville,” Jarrott said. “I thought the kids played very, very well. We started the year back in a COVID phase and missed the first two games due to Hurricane Ida before the forfeits. It was a year of challenges. We played really well in the first playoff game against Teurlings Catholic. U-High was certainly really good.”

While there are graduations and departures to overcome, including quarterback Cole Milford, De’Ante Lebranch, Makhi Paris, outstanding receiver and punter Kentrell Molette and kicker Gabe Capasso, among others, there is a host of talent on hand for Jarrott in 2022.

Taking over at quarterback is senior Mark Dix (5-11, 180).

“We had an open competition in the spring and Dix is a senior who can throw the football,” Jarrott said. “He has been around the program. Sophomore Evan Arceneaux has tremendous upside and he is already 6-2, 200 pounds. I foresee both playing for us during the season.”

The star and focus on offense will be senior running back Patrick “PJ” Martin (5-11, 205), a definite college prospect with size and nice speed. Junior Jace Bienemy (5-9, 170) is an outstanding athlete who can line up at running back or wide receiver and is a threat. Junior Jeremiah Wills (5-10, 175) is gifted as well and provides the Cavaliers with another outstanding option.

“A strength of the team is at running back with PJ being back,” Jarrott said. “I think he is going to be very, very special, especially with a senior-laden offensive line. We are really strong there. Jace will be a terrific receiver for us but he will also play running back and he is very explosive. We will line him up all over. Levar Fortenberry (5-10, 165) is a junior while junior Guy Buras (5-11, 172) will also play at wide receiver.”

The real strength of the De La Salle offense is with strong players up front.

The huge offensive line features Caden Jones (6-8, 310), Justin Howard (6-3, 285) and Hunter Kareokowsky (6-3, 270). Senior Josh Thornton (5-10, 200) also returns to a unit which is very experienced and tough. For Jarrott, who has always coached offensive line, it is a pleasure.

“There is a competition for the fifth and final spot will likely go to Eric Knatt at right guard and he is a senior,” Jarrott said. “Three of our linemen are three-year returning starters. You have to be happy with that. I am very excited to see what they can do as a unit.”

Up front on defense, junior tackle Timothy Maxson (6-1, 270) anchors the front, along with senior Lance Joseph (6-3, 225). Sophomore Dominique McGill (5-11, 209) also returns after logging significant playing time as a freshman.

“I really like our defense for the next two years,” Jarrott said. “Maxson led us in sacks last year. McGill started as a freshman and is incredibly athletic. Joseph and Jackson Perdue both played last year and will be at end. Jaiden Elly (5-10, 265) is a sophomore who is very strong. I’m very excited about our front four.”

On the second level, senior Michael Thomas (5-9, 218) and junior Keidrick Richardson (5-11, 228) are tackling machines at linebacker. Senior Jordan Scott (5-10, 206) and sophomore Drew Poche (5-8, 175) also return, making the position a very strong one.

“Thomas led us in tackles last year and Richardson was right behind him,” Jarrott said. “Both are tremendous leaders. Thomas will play in the middle while Richardson will play on the weakside and he is an all-world player. Poche started as a freshman and he will play on the strong side. He has a high motor and is athletic.”

The secondary is led by cornerback Derrick Irvin (6-1, 168) and senior safety Kennith Vaughn (5-10, 175). Sophomore Montez Randall (5-9, 152) gained outstanding experience as a freshman.

“Vaughn is what we call a thinking missile,” Jarrott said. “He comes down hill and destroys people. Irvin is going to move to corner and he is going to be special. Randall and Matthew Bedi (5-10, 175) have a chance to be really good. Bedi is our starting shortstop in baseball.”

The non-district schedule, as always, is very challenging for De La Salle.

The Cavaliers open with North Pike, Mississippi on Sept. 3 at Joe Yenni Stadium before battling Holy Cross at Tad Gormley Stadium. De La Salle will take on St. Paul’s at Yulman Stadium on Sept. 16.

The huge challenge continues at LaPlace against defending Division III state champion St. Charles Catholic before a trip to Gonzales to take on a tough 5A team in East Ascension.

District 9-4A play opens against Kenner Discovery on Oct. 6 at Tad Gormley Stadium before a non-district game against Jefferson Davis County (Mississippi). District play resumes in week eight against Riverdale before the final district contests against McMain and talented Booker T. Washington.

“St. Paul’s and Holy Cross should produce good crowds and a good Division I teams,” Jarrott said. “St. Charles Catholic is an elite program. East Ascension is big and physical. North Pike is a very good team. We were scheduled to play them last year but it was canceled. Jefferson Davis County is the defending 3A state champion in Mississippi and they have won multiple titles.”

The district competition is tougher this season with Booker T. Washington in the fold.

“It is a challenging schedule and having Booker T. Washington in the final week could decide a district title,” Jarrott said. “You have to get your kids ready by scheduling tough. Going to Lake Charles Prep and Scotlandville last year helped us when we went to Teurlings Catholic last year. We know we have to be the likes of U-High and E.D. White Catholic. Playing tough opponents gets you ready for that kind of competition and those atmospheres.”

With a talented team, with a fine coach firmly established in his second year and with a schedule full of positive power point opportunities, De La Salle appears poised to make a run at reaching the title game again in Division II.

“Going into my second year, I’m so far ahead of last year,” Jarrott said. “Bringing Eddie Jaquillard back for another year as defensive coordinator is huge. I think our top 30 kids are as good as anyone. We need consistency at quarterback. We should run the ball very well. If we can stay healthy, we can accomplish much. I like our team. The goal is to have your best players ready for the playoffs.”

Click here for more CCS Prep Football team previews (including archives of past season previews).

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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 with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

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