Football Preview: Opelousas puts 2020 in rear-view mirror as new season approaches

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During the very memorable year of 2020, Opelousas Senior High had a very forgettable season.

Due to the pandemic, the Tigers only played a total of five games last year and failed to win any of them.

Head coach Jimmy Zachery’s first year as the team’s leader did not go as planned. This year, he looks to right the ship, now having a year of experience under his belt while putting last season behind him.

This season they will look to find replacements for linebacker Mark Thomas Jr., defensive back Reece Guillory, offensive lineman Damian Thompson and linebacker Brandon Calvin.

“We’re going to be young,” Zachery said. “We got a good core coming back though from last year that pretty much bought in to what we are trying to do as a program.”

While Zachery acknowledges that he will be losing a group of talented players from last year’s team, he thinks that this year’s roster is very experienced despite their youth. Zachery will rely on a group of all-district players to rise to the occasion and lead them.

Their star wide receiver Javionne Gibson (6-3, 200) will be their workhorse on offense. After failing to get him the ball consistently last year, he made the transition to quarterback in order to utilize his playmaking ability. Despite his move to under center, he still managed 300 receiving yards and five touchdowns in just five games.

Offensive lineman Trent Murphy (6-4, 260) will be key in keeping Gibson upright and opening lanes for his running backs, as he did last year when he earned all-district  honors. Murphy did not allow a sack while amassing a healthy amount of pancake blocks.

Christian Murphy (6-3, 225) seeks to build off his strong performance last year at defensive end. Murphy was a constant problem for opposing quarterbacks last year with 45 tackles, including seven sacks and 10 hurries in just five games..

All-district linebacker Dontay Washington (6-0, 185) will be another leader for the Tigers as their signal caller on defense. In 2020, Washington tallied 60 total tackles, averaging 12 a game.

Zachery believes that a few plays with possessions ending differently could have changed the direction of a disappointing season in 2020.

“We didn’t finish well; we were in a lot of games, but being in a lot of games and winning them are two different things,” Zachery said.

“Finishing and overcoming adversity, the highs and lows of the game, because everything is not going to go your way is key,” Zachery said. “You’re not going to get every call, you’re going to get some bad calls. We’ve got to be able to fight through those things.”

To find more success this year the Coach Zachery and the Tigers will have to find a way to motivate themselves after negative plays or penalties that kill can drives and momentum.

Opelousas has a full 10-game season this year. The first six games of the season are non-district contests.

Week one has Opelousas traveling to Lafayette to take on Teurlings Catholic. Last year, the Rebels won decisively, 49-21. This will be a game that will show how much the Tigers have improved from last year.

The Tigers will host the Bossier Bearcats in a week two contest.

Week three has Southside playing at Opelousas.

The Tigers will then travel to St. Amant to take on the Gators in their fourth game of the year, followed by a home game against Opelousas and a date with Northside, who edged the Tigers 16-10 a year ago.

The Tigers open up the District portion of their schedule with a home game against Livonia. Last season, the Wildcats defeated the Tigers, 20-9.

A road game at Cecilia follows. The Bulldogs won 31-7 last season.

The Breaux Bridge Tigers will be next on the agenda for the Tigers of Opelousas. Last year’s game was cancelled due to complications with coronavirus.

Opelousas concludes its regular season against the Beau Chene Gators.

“I feel like it’s a pretty tough schedule,” Zachery said. “You want to get wins, but I don’t believe in easy wins, I think that’s fool’s gold, I like to test the team.”

Zachery looks to bring a new challenge to his team every single week when putting together the schedule.

“I really want to go over .500, get to the playoffs and at least make it to the third round, at least have a home playoff game and win the district,” Zachery said.

Zachery has high hopes for this year’s team that are reflected in the goals that he has set for his players. The Opelousas Tigers are looking forward to putting last year in the past and taking a big leap forward in 2021.

 


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