Higgins looks to change direction
It has been a tough run for Higgins.
Former Hurricanes great Clifford Harris accepted the challenge of returning to his alma mater as head coach.
Harris, an outstanding athlete, a dual threat quarterback with outstanding speed who went on to play at Duke. Harris was at Higgins when the Hurricanes were a force and a playoff program under Wayne Meyers and the “Dogs of War” days of the Higgins program.
Harris has his sights set on restoring the program to that level.
It has been over a decade since Higgins had a winning record, back in 2012. Higgins last reached the state playoffs in 2011. The last playoff victory was in 2008, when the Hurricanes reached the 5A quarterfinals.
The Hurricanes got to play eight games and did not post a win in 2021. They have won just seven games since 2017.
“It is all about getting the kids to believe,” Harris said. “I have some former players on the staff who played here when we won and they are sharing what it takes. We have what it takes. We have the physical ability. Now, it is about changing the mental aspect and believing we can and will win.”
The 2022 version of the Hurricanes is a mixture of young players and experienced veterans.
Leading the offense is junior quarterback T’lijah Green (5-7, 175).
“He’s an athletic guy, one of our best athletes so we want to put the ball in his hands,” Harris said. “He can really run but he can throw as well. Higgins has always been known for athletic quarterbacks and that’s what he brings.”
The running backs are talented sophomore Wardell Mitchell (6-0, 220) and junior Stephan Esell (5-11, 185), who will also line up at wide receiver.
“Mitchell is a huge, strong kid but he is very athletic as well,” Harris said. “He won’t go down on the first tackle attempt. Esell is our best receiver, very dynamic.”
The other wideouts have good size in senior Quindell Simmons (6-2, 180) and junior Joel Divinity (6-2, 187).
“Simmons is tall and lanky and can stretch the field and we have some young guys who can run as well,” Harris said. “It is good to have size on the outside.”
Sophomore Rudy Scott (6-1, 160) will man the tight end spot.
“Scott can line up in different spots and create matchup problems,” Harris said.
Up front, the Hurricanes have a pair of seniors in tackle Kylie Hulbert (5-11, 240) and guard Craig Bradley (5-11, 270). Junior guard Quentin Scott (5-11, 190) and junior tackle Joseph Evans (6-1, 270) will start, along with sophomore center Desilon Lestrick (5-10, 260).
“I feel better about our offensive line now than I felt in the spring,” Harris said. “We have two solid seniors and we have added some solid guys who will make us better and very competitive.”
The defensive line is a strength with a pair of stalwarts returning as starters in senior Jonas Pierce (6-0, 250) at tackle and senior Jonathan Clayton (5-11, 230) at an end spot. Clayton will also line up at linebacker. The other starters are senior tackle Tre’von Johnson (5-11, 240) and senior ends Tillman Allen (6-1, 200) and Jayvyn Dixon (6-0, 210).
“Our front four is the strength of our defense,” Harris said. “If we want to take over and win games, they will have to do it. We have everyone returning up front.”
Joining Clayton at linebacker is Tyrese Dixon (5-10, 215).
“Dixon is our middle linebacker,” Harris said. “He is really smart and very physical and he had a very good summer. He will be our leader.”
The secondary is led by junior John-Charles Deary (5-11, 175) at free safety while the strong safety Wyatt Petty (5-10, 180). The corners are junior Rashad Landry (5-11, 176) and freshman Jermain Jackson (5-8, 178). Junior Elijah Green (5-10, 180) is the rover.
“Deary was first team all-district last year and we are moving him from corner to safety,” Harris said. “We have a good young corps of players that we expect to be good.”
Dixon will handle kicking and punting duties.
The schedule opens on September 1 against John F. Kennedy before a home game with Livingston Collegiate. Next up are games with West Jefferson and Sophie B. Wright before a home game with East Jefferson.
District 10-4A play opens at home against Helen Cox on October 7 before a road game against Landry. A home game with Belle Chasse is next before a road game at Archbishop Shaw. The final game is at home against Abramson.
“I think the schedule gives us a chance to do something we haven’t done in over a decade and that is to have a winning season,” Harris said. “If our kids buy in and work hard, I really believe that is possible. The district is really tough. Helen Cox is coming along. Belle Chasse is always solid. Landry has a ton of athletes. Shaw is talented with a legendary coach in Hank Tierney.”
The task at hand is a difficult one but Harris understands what winning looks like at Higgins.
“We are looking forward to the challenge and looking forward to having success,” Harris said.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE 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 Sports Media Association, National Football…