Ellender hopes to take steps towards football renaissance in 2018
Long known for its prowess in basketball, Ellender forges ahead with conviction trying to make its mark in football.
Ellender hopes to return to the playoffs in 2018. The Patriots reached the playoffs in 2016 under David McCormick before falling short a year ago.
A trip to the Class 4A quarterfinals in 1993 when the Patriots fell to John Curtis Christian marks the last season Ellender won a playoff game. Victories came that postseason over both Capitol and St. Martinville.
Ellender finished last season 2-8, with a 1-5 mark in District 7-4A. This year’s squad must replace five key players who graduated, including running back Reggie Williams, wide receiver Kobe Hartman, linebacker Jamire Mott and defensive linemen Terrance Gray and Sedrick Williams.
“Last year, we did not have a good junior class so we relied on a lot of sophomore,” McCormick said. “In seven of the games we lost last year, we were down by no more than one score. That can change with experience with juniors now. Last year, our secondary was a weakness. That is where sophomores were. They were in position to make plays. This year, we expect them to make plays.”
There is a nice core of key players returning for McCormick in his third year on the job.
Offensively, junior running back Jahon Johnson (5-10, 175) will carry a load, along with junior Justin Navy (6-1, 195). Navy will also see time at linebacker. Up front, senior tight end Frank Robinson (6-6, 205) is a huge target in the passing game while junior Willie Howard (5-11, 240) is the top lineman. Johnson rushed for 442 yards and five touchdowns in 2017.
Freshman Ryan Williams takes over at quarterback for Lynn Parfait, now a senior. Parfait completed 86-of-163 passes for 1,256 yards and eight touchdowns and ran for three scores last season.
“Johnson and Navy are solid,” McCormick said. “Ryan adds a different aspect to the game. Lynn Parfait started last year and we had to move him from linebacker and he was thrown to the wolves. We didn’t have a whole lot of depth. He did a good job. Williams adds a twist to it. He is not afraid to run. He reads well, looks for his routes and if it is not there, he can take off and make plays.”
Parfait returns to linebacker this season.
“That is his natural position,” McCormick said. “We expect him to be good for us. We have to be more consistent on offense this year,” McCormick said. “You have to be a band of brothers up front and I think we are that bunch this year. We can pick up blitzes better.”
Defensively, the line is solid with Jaydon Lyons (6-1, 220), who will also play tight end. Lyons is joined by Lance Rockwood (6-1, 225) and Truvon Price (5-11, 230). Junior Jared Whitrack (6-0, 215) should be outstanding at middle linebacker. Junior Cam Atkins (5-11, 170) will shine in the secondary for the Patriots.
“One of the key factors to our defense is our front, including Price,” McCormick said. “We move him around from nose to end. He gets offensive linemen off of him. Jared Whitrack will be our middle linebacker. He is physical and he is a junior. Cam Atkins is now a junior in the secondary and he has really improved.”
The schedule opens at The Swamp against a very good Terrebonne team on Aug. 31 before the Patriots celebrate Homecoming on Sept. 7 against Grace King. A trip to H.L. Bourgeois follows.
District 7-4A play opens on Sept. 21 at home against South Lafourche. Then comes a non-district road game at Central Lafourche before district play resumes on Oct. 5 at The Swamp against Vandebilt Catholic. After the Patriots host Assumption comes a road trip to Morgan City.
The final home game is Oct. 26 at home against E.D. White Catholic and the regular season concludes on Nov. 2 against South Terrebonne.
“With our non-district schedule, we have all 5A schools,” McCormick said. “Terrebonne is very talented, with everyone back. How we play against them will be huge. We must be competitive. It will set the tone. Grace King was a win for us last year and we hope that happens again. H.L. Bourgeois went down to the wire last year and they have a new staff. Coach (Keith) Menard does a good job at Central. We lost a close game to them last year.”
As for handicapping the district, McCormick feels there are co-favorites.
“Our league was closely matched last year,” McCormick said. “Chris Bergeron does a really good job at E.D. White Catholic again. Kyle Lasseigne is really good and they won it last year. Assumption is always in the mix. Vandebilt Catholic lost their quarterback but they are still talented. Coach Richard Curlin does a good job at South Terrebonne. South Lafourche has been a three-point game the last two years. Morgan City has a new coach. I would say E.D. White or Assumption would be the favorites.”
The key for Ellender is getting off to a good start. While Terrebonne figures to be a very tough side to overcome, the Patriots have a shot at winning two or three games early before getting into the tough part of the schedule.
“We want to get back in the hunt for a district title and get back to the playoffs and even host a game,” McCormick said. “How we play on the offensive and defensive lines will largely determine our success as a team. That is the key.”
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…