Experienced Lutcher squad back in Class 3A comfort zone

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Entering his fourth year at his alma mater, Dwain Jenkins has seen his football program bounce around quite a bit. The Bulldogs played in 4A, they played in 3A, they played in a New Orleans area district, they played in a Baton Rouge area district.

Call Lutcher “the in-between” program, if you will.

What you can also call the Lutcher football program is one of the best in Louisiana, especially when the Bulldogs are classified as a 3A school.

Lutcher has captured eight state championships, most recently in 2016 under Jenkins in his first year back with the program after serving as offensive coordinator from 2006-2012. Only seven programs (John Curtis Christian, Haynesville, Evangel Christian, Neville, Istrouma, Tallulah, Kentwood) have won more state championships than Lutcher.

All eight of Lutcher’s state titles have come in 3A.

“I think that when you look at what our team looks like, when you take away the expectations, we look like a 3A football team,” Jenkins said. “We don’t have the abundance of linemen that 4A teams have. That has been the sticking point. In 2009, we had everybody back and moved up to 4A and we were better than our 2008 state title team in 3A but when you got deep in the playoffs, you played the likes of Neville and Karr and we could not just match up. We feel we can in 3A.”

It was jubilation for Jenkins and his Bulldogs with the Class 3A state title in 2016. It has been a bit rockier since that tremendous accomplishment.

A year ago, Lutcher finished 6-5, with a first-round exit in the Class 4A state playoffs for the second straight year. The Bulldogs lost a heart-stopping, heartbreaking 29-28 overtime loss at Breaux Bridge in the postseason.

That came on the heels of a first-round playoff exit in 4A in 2017 in a 34-30 loss to Salmen.

“I wish the team we had the last two years that we would have been 3A,” Jenkins said. “I feel they would have competed well at that level.”

After two seasons in the deeper, tougher 4A classification, Lutcher is back in 3A in a geographically-friendly district in 2019 with rival St. James, Berwick, E.D. White Catholic, Donaldsonville and Patterson, covering the river parish and bayou sectors.

Despite tough competition, the change should bode well for the Bulldogs.

After starting over following the 2016 state championship, Lutcher finally has the experience and talent needed to compete statewide.

The Bulldogs return 14 starters, including seven on each side of the ball.

“We will be young skill-wise on offense and we will have to develop in that area,” Jenkins said. “We expect our front to carry our offense early.”

Offensively, junior Mekhi Patterson (5-9, 150) takes over at quarterback for Kolby Bourgeois, who threw for 2,283 yards and 30 touchdowns and rushed for three scores a year ago.

“Mekhi is a smart quarterback,” Jenkins said. “He is likely the smallest guy to play quarterback for me. He is an elusive athlete but he is not very big. We have to make sure we keep him healthy as a big part of his game is running the ball. We will have to protect him at times. We know we have to do some things different if we want Mekhi to be successful.”

Freshman D’wanye Winfield (6-2, 185) has a bright future at quarterback.

“He could be a Lowell Narcisse-type of player,” Jenkins said. “He got many reps in the spring when Mekhi was hurt. He has a very high ceiling.”

Lutcher must also replace leading rusher Rondell Mealey, who ran for 1,060 yards and 14 touchdowns and caught 21 passes for 290 yards and four scores last season.

“Rondell kind of picked things up for us,” Jenkins said. “He carried the load for us and had big games despite an injury he suffered near the end of the season. We will miss his consistency. You knew what you were getting from him. He was dynamic in the passing game.”

Vying for the running back spot are junior Rasaan Starks and junior DeMario Brown. Sophomore Koby Roberson is a bigger back and there are a couple of freshmen in Tyriek Brown and Cleveland Parquette who could contribute.

“Starks is more of a true running back, Jenkins said. “Brown is a smaller back and the two freshmen will be real good but we are hoping we don’t have to count on them so much this year. Roberson can be physical.”

The wide receiver position is solid with three returning senior starters, including, Jacoby Williams (6-0, 190), Resohn Williams (5-11, 150) and Cam Amato (5-8, 150).

“Resohn started for us and had nearly 500 yards receiving last year,” Jenkins said. “Amato was good last year but he tore his ACL this summer so we will miss him. Jacoby Williams missed spring practice. We are hoping he is eligible for the fall.”

Jacoby Williams was brilliant last season, catching 61 passes for 814 yards and six touchdowns. Rasohn Williams snared 28 passes for 438 yards and five scores and Amato had 26 catches for 365 yards and seven touchdowns. Sophomore Noah Detillier (5-9, 155) will also see action.

The offensive line should be a huge strength for the Bulldogs with four of five starters returning.

That includes senior center Colten Poche (5-9, 250), senior guard Drake Lafleur (6-1, 265), sophomore guard Donald Fleming (6-1, 290) and senior tackle DQ Alexander (6-1, 240). The new starter is sophomore tackle Semaj Scott (6-2, 240).

“We feel like our offensive line is our strength,” Jenkins said. “Colten is good and experienced. Donald started as a freshman. Alexander is a senior and returning starter. LaFleur started as a sophomore and missed all of last year with a back injury. We really like all four of them. Drake is a leader for us.”

Defensively, Lutcher returns two starters up front, including senior tackle Jamel Thomas (6-0, 275) and sophomore end Carter Poche (5-10, 230). Those expected to join them in the starting lineup are sophomore tackle Ty Cooper (5-10, 245) and junior end Copeland Williams (6-1, 215). Thomas had 46 tackles last year while Poche had 33 tackles, including two sacks.

“Carter started for us last year as a freshman and he is continuing to grow,” Jenkins said. “I played with his dad who was a very good defensive lineman for us. Carter can be a dominant player. His first cousin is Sully Laiche. That is a good guy to draw from. He took lumps and grew from it. Jamel was a starter last year. We need him to be dominant this year. He has the skill to be a guy to do just that.”

A pair of starting linebackers return in seniors Chris Burkhalter (6-0, 190) and Ivan Clark (5-9, 180). Senior Zach Duhe (5-7, 165) is a new starter. Burkhalter had 74 tackles a year ago, including for loss while Clark led the team with 89 stops last season.

“Burkhalter and Clark were our two top guys last year,” Jenkins said. “Both are athletic and do a good job in space. We need them to jump from being all-district guys to all-state guys and they are capable of doing so. They took lumps in 4A two years ago and now they are grown up.”

The secondary should be a strength with three senior starters returning, including Rashaud Long (5-9, 155), Tre Stewart (6-0, 170) and Rhett Whitney (5-10, 150). The new starter is junior Robert Ursin (5-7, 155). Stewart had two interceptions in 2018 while Whitney was in on 51 stops.

“Long, Stewart and Whitney all started for us as sophomores,” Jenkins said. “Tre and Rhett will create turnovers on the back end and will get us lined up right and in position. We expect they lead our defensive unit.”

The schedule opens with a bang at defending 2A state champion and talent-rich Amite before a home game against always tough St. Charles Catholic, a semifinalist in four of the last five years and a finalist in 2016. Homecoming against KIPP-Douglass follows on Sept. 20 before the Bulldogs entertain South Lafourche on Sept. 27. The final non-district game is another tough road test at St. Amant.

“We’ve kind of gone back and forth with our pre-district schedule,” Jenkins said. “We’ve played Ascension Parish 5A schools and we’ve had years where we were successful against them and years where we were not successful. We wanted to play championship-level programs and Amite and St. Charles Catholic are those teams. Both could play for state titles. South Lafourche is bigger and physical. St. Amant has become a natural rivalry for us. We always play close games.”

District play begins on Oct. 11 in the battle for parish supremacy at St. James before the Bulldogs host Berwick. After traveling to Thibodaux to face E.D. White Catholic, Lutcher hosts Donaldsonville. The Bulldogs close the regular season at Patterson.

“The league is the old 1990’s district in 3A for us,” Jenkins said. “It is a return to what a lot of people here really like. When we don’t have to travel into the cities of Baton Rouge or New Orleans, it is a better fit for us for travel and the type of schools and communities we are used to playing in. St. James is huge for us. E.D. White has always been a big rivalry. Donaldsonville and Patterson usually have good athletes. It is a good, tough league.”

With a proven head coach, program and an experienced team, look for Lutcher to end the brief skid of bowing out in the first round of the playoffs and to be a major factor in 3A statewide, as the Bulldogs have traditionally been in that classification.

“What gets lost is that the last few years, we have been on the road in the first round and got into wars,” Jenkins said. “We lost on the last play of the game at Salmen. They scored with four seconds left to win the game. Against Breaux Bridge, we felt we had the stop on a two-point conversion to win it but a pass interference call gave them another chance and they won it.”

Jenkins is optimistic that his team can move up in the power rankings and play at home.

“We feel we have a better shot to get a better seed and play at home, at least in the opening round of the playoffs,” Jenkins said. “If we grow up on offense and are dominant on defense, we can be the team we want to be.”

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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…

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