Dutchtown, Mistretta look to take next step in ’18

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It is a program which has achieved success with a coach that has achieved the ultimate success.

In his first year as head coach and athletic director at Dutchtown, Guy Mistretta guided the Griffins to a 7-5 record. That included a first-round playoff victory over Slidell (28-24) before Dutchtown bowed out with a second round loss to West Monroe. That came a year after the Griffins missed the playoffs in 2016, the first time Dutchtown had missed the playoffs since 2004.

In a relatively short period of time, the Griffins have established a solid football reputation.

Dutchtown reached the Class 5A quarterfinals in 2007, 2010 and 2013 under Benny Saia.

Mistretta is poised to continue the fine tradition.

In his 14 years of being a head coach, he has acquired an outstanding 123-49 record and won a pair of state titles. Mistretta guided Redemptorist to the 2005 championship in Class 3A and did the same with Livonia in 2014.

Coaches always enjoy seeing graduating players move on to the next level and continue to play, a true blessing. It is, of course, a curse as well in that those players are obviously talented and very hard to replace.

The Griffins certainly have losses to their depth chart, but also have younger and very eager players who have been waiting to pounce on the opportunity to play.

One key player to replace is quarterback Ben Mays. All eyes will be on senior Dre Monroe (6-0, 190).

Monroe has athletic ability to make plays.

“We are counting on him to do so and to break down defenses, giving us an extra threat,” Mistretta said. “How he develops will go a long way toward determining our success. We are counting on him to be our leader.”

Other key players to replace include wide receiver Noah Gray (replaced by star wide-out Terry Matthews), and tight end Brandon Davies (replaced by junior Jadyn McKinney). The coaching staff has high praise for these returning players, and is confident that they can get the job done. Matthews (5-9, 165 Sr.) should be excellent and he is joined at wide receiver by seniors Eric Coleman (6-0,165) along with junior Dajan Watkins.

“Matthews and McKinney should be outstanding players whom we have a great deal of confidence in,” Mistretta said.

The running back is junior Blayden Louis (5-10, 170).

Up front, Dutchtown returns a pair of starters in senior left tackle Harley Huang (5-10, 225) and junior center Riley Lawrence (6-2, 240). The new starters are senior left guard Jacob Williams (6-1, 230), junior right guard Michael Periera (5-10, 225) and junior right tackle Kade Goodman (5-10, 240).

Players to replace on defense include defensive end Bryant Parker, linebacker Jacoby Johnson, and defensive back Van’Shon Grayson. Coach Mistretta has high hopes that these players are going to be replaced by defensive leaders such as senior defensive end Hayden Willis (5-11, 200), a returning starter, senior linebacker Reggie Spears (5-10, 185), and senior defensive back Jordan Jackson (5-9, 145). Spears and Jackson are returning starters.

Other returning starters include senior nose guard Shane Levy (5-11, 250) and senior safeties Brayden Caskey (5-6, 155) and Lamarcus Jones (5-10, 170). Other new starters include junior defensive end Jyron Blakes (5-11, 195), junior linebacker Johmel Jolla (5-10, 185) senior linebacker Tavian Bishop (5-11, 180), junior cornerback Logan Scott (5-7, 150) and junior strong safety Jordan Spears (5-9, 160).

“This year’s team needs to grow up quickly, especially with much needed experience early in the season,” Mistretta said.

On special teams, sophomore Cohen Parent (5-7, 150) returns while senior Devon Teer (6-0, 180) is the new punter. Matthews is the primary return man.

The schedule opens at home against Walker on Oct. 31 and Central on Sept. 7. Non-district games follow at Covington, at home for Homecoming against Abramson (Sci Academy) and another home game against Lutcher.

District 5-5A play opens with a pair of road games at East Ascension and St. Amant before the Griffins host Broadmoor on Oct. 19. After a tough road game at Catholic, Dutchtown closes the regular season at home against McKinley on Nov. 1.

“As always, the development of leadership and team chemistry will be important keys to success,” Mistretta said.

To have success in 2018, the Griffins may have to do things differently from last year. Sometimes the time teammates spend with each other off of the football field can be just as effective as on the field. Team bonding activities such as dinners, going to the movies, or just hanging out doing nothing together can help create an unbreakable bond between a team, and boost team morale.

“The inexperience of this year’s team magnifies the significance of these much needed qualities,” Mistretta said. “Bonding is very important.”

The program went through an adjustment period a year ago following the resignation of Saia as head coach after 15 years on the job.

Regardless of accomplishment, there are going to be changes and struggles with every first-year head coach. It becomes difficult for teams, especially upperclassmen, to have to learn a new style and playbook. The Dutchtown seniors last year had Saia for three years, and had already acclimated to his coaching style. The adjustment period is now over and Mistretta is putting his highly successful stamp on the program.

Click here for more Crescent City Sports high school football team previews.

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