Donaldsonville looks to build on last season with talented young core
Donaldsonville High is in a great position heading into the 2023 season.
The Fighting Tigers are a young and talented team with huge upside potential. Last season did not wind up as Donaldsonville hoped but there is genuine optimism heading into this season.
Brian Richardson is entering his eighth year as head coach of the Tigers with a record of 39-35.
While there is optimism, there is still growth which is needed for Donaldsonville to achieve success at a high level.
“We are still a young team overall but we are ready to continue to build from last season,” Richardson said.
Last season, the Fighting Tigers finished 3-7, going winless in District 8-3A and missed the playoffs. The Tigers last reached the playoffs in 2021, reaching the regional round, and that is motivation heading into this season.
“The clear goal is to finish strong this season and to secure a playoff spot,” Richardson said.
Donaldsonville returns a total of 13 starters and 22 lettermen from last season.
Two starters Coach Richardson is high on are senior Raiyen Oatis and junior Blake Turner.
“They are poised to pick up the slack left by the graduating seniors,”. Richardson said. “I am excited to see Raiyen Oatis come back from injury this year. He is an electric ball-handler.”
While many starters return, there is a downside.
“It is great to have experience but the injury bug has hit us with five starters out due to injury,” Richardson said.
Donaldsonville was respectable offensively last season, with Oatis passing for 900 passing yards and 11 touchdowns while rushing for 400 yards as the Tigers rushed for 1,613 yards overall.
The Fighting Tigers are committed to a Flex Bone attack, focusing on the run game.
The offense will be commanded by new starting quarterback Donald Brown (5’7, 140). Brown is a sophomore who will look to take over Oatis who has moved to playing defensive back full time, though he can step in at quarterback if needed. has been switched full time to defensive back but can still step in when needed.
Brown will have two new starters to throw to.
Junior Michael Hebert (6’0, 147) and senior Kaden Butler (5’8, 152) will play the tight end and split end positions, respectively. Junior Jai Green (6’2, 250) will return at tight end as well with very good size.
The running back room is deep and experienced, with a host of returning starters but with one key player to replace.
Junior Blake Turner (5’10, 175), senior Jaleel Johnson (6’0, 172), and sophomores Jaden Allen (5’9, 180) and Quinnton Dabney (6’0, 180) are a solid group. Last year, Turner notched 300 total yards. They will look to make up for the loss of All-State running back Robert Kent, now at Southwest Mississippi; Kent ran for 900 yards last season.
The offensive line returns intact. This includes sophomore Ashton Green (6’1, 285) and junior Tremaine Millien (5’11, 210) at the tackle spots, sophomores Ray Shawn Dunham (5’10, 255) and Treyshawn Dunham (5’10, 255) at guard, and senior Ronald Duncan (5’9, 252) as the center.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Fighting Tigers are very experienced, with all but one starter returning. The Tigers have committed to a 4-2-5 defensive scheme.
Sophomore Terrill Nicholas (6’3, 250) and senior Jyran Ferchaud (6’0, 245) will handle the defensive end positions. Sophomores Ray Shawn Dunham (5’10, 255) and Ashton Green (6’1, 285) are the defensive tackles.
Sophomores Jaden Allen (5’9, 180) and Quinnton Dabney (6’0, 180), junior Blake Turner (5’10, 175), and seniors Jaleel Johnson (6’0, 172) and Tyriek Jupiter (5’10, 200) will form the linebacker core. Jupiter led the team in tackles last year, racking up 24 solo tackles. The one loss is Kent, who notched 30 tackles, three sacks, and one interception last season.
Senior Jarid Richardson (5’10, 151), along with junior Trae Spurlock (5’8, 150) and Oatis will start in the secondary. Oatis made All-District last season and was the team’s interception leader with four.
The schedule opens at home against Assumption and Port Allen. After hosting West St. John, the Tigers are at Liberty and Sarah Reed. District 8-3A play opens at Berwick before hosting E.D. White Catholic. The Tigers travel to St. James and host Patterson. The regular season concludes with a non-district game at Erath.
The Fighting Tigers should be ready to well exceed the benchmark they set for themselves last season.
“The biggest obstacle to return to the postseason is learning to deal with adversity,” Richardson said. “Even though we are a veteran team, we are still young. We start nine sophomores. Our young players will have to mature to have the success we believe we can have.”
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Wyatt Audler is a senior in high school at Holy Cross of New Orleans who runs cross country and track and field. He has had a love for sports all his life and hopes to get early exposure into the field of sports writing with the help Crescent City Sports. Wyatt looks to study sports journalism in college and become…