Holy Cross looks for bounce back season in 2017
The proud tradition of Holy Cross football is evident anytime you set foot on the Gentilly campus. It is a legacy that is inescapable for the current young men and coaches who are the present of Tiger football.
A year ago, the Tiger tradition took a bit of a blow.
The Tigers finished the 2016 season at a disappointing 3-8, including a blowout 59-9 first round loss to eventual Division I state champion Evangel. Star quarterback Chandler Fields only played in six games due to injury and then he transferred to district rival Archbishop Rummel at the semester break this year.
While Fields is now at Rummel, a former Raider, who was a Tiger, is a Tiger again, if you follow me.
Senior Jaden Moran (6-2, 195), who transferred to Rummel after Fields emerged as a freshman star, transferred back to Holy Cross for his senior season after Fields switched to Rummel. It had the feel of a trade which was clearly not a trade.
“Jaden has come in and really taken the reins and run with it,” Rebaudo said. “He’s very intelligent, a student of the game. I know he has some physical attributes that help. The mind part of the game is where he’s tended to excel.”
Moran, who saw limited action at Rummel behind Jacob Palma a year ago, knows the landscape and offense of head coach Eric Rebaudo and offensive coordinator Vance Andry, who also moved to Holy Cross from Rummel a year ago. For that matter, Rebaudo is a former Rummel player and assistant coach under current Raiders head coach Jay Roth. There are many ties that bind between the two District 9-5A schools.
“It seems like it’s been ages ago since the transfers (Fields, Moran) took place,” Rebaudo said. “I think the guys have moved on. Our focus has really been on going 1-0, not on what happened in the past. What’s happened in the past is the past. We’ve moved on. I’m sure other schools have moved on as well. It’s about now.”
With the dust having settled, Rebaudo is pleased with where his team is.
“I like where we are right now,” Rebaudo said. “We worked really hard in the offseason. Obviously, we have our work cut out for us with the district we’re in. The guys are working hard. We didn’t stop in the offseason with the weight program and conditioning. We are looking forward to the challenge.”
Moran has a top target to throw to in senior Kym Wimberly (6-0, 185), who is a Division I prospect and has some college offers. Wimberly caught 47 passes for 670 yards and seven touchdowns a year ago. Sophomore Tyler Kirkwood (6-0, 175) is a skilled, multi-sport athlete. Senior tight end Rhett Weidenbacher (6-2, 220) has good size and ability.
The running game must replace Ashton Smith, who provided punch to the attack a year ago. Leading the way are senior Landon Bates (5-10, 195) and sophomore Celven Hulbert (5-5, 160), both of whom saw time a year ago. Junior Merlin Seminary (6-0, 210) is the fullback.
Up front, the Tigers have three seniors who figure prominently, including Andrew Centola (5-9, 280), Jack Tomeny (6-0, 245) and Jules Martin (6-1, 273). Juniors Austin Wehrlin (6-0, 255) and Jalen Womble (5-10, 246) are set to start while sophomore Cameron McDaniel (5-10, 260) has a bright future.
“I really don’t know if we have a particular strength or overall weakness offensively,” Rebaudo said. “Kym gets a lot of the press and its well deserved. We have to be able to move the ball both running and throwing the ball. I think Landon Bates has done a good job in a reserve role the past couple of years and is ready to step up his game. Our line has a few returning players with young guys who have to prove themselves in the Catholic League.”
The defense is led by Weidenbacher, who will see time on both sides of the football. Weidenbacher was in on 37 tackles a year ago, including two sacks to go with three forced fumbles. Juniors David Barnes (6-2, 206) and Dominic Lamm (6-0, 224) will start while senior Mikey Ricks (5-11, 244) will provide a stout presence as well. Ricks had 46 tackles, including three sacks, a year ago.
“We’re hoping a few of the guys up front that were injured last year are healthy this year,” Rebaudo said. “We’re hoping for a healthy front. You need to win up front in this league. If we are healthy, we can compete. Mikey Ricks has been great. He was elected captain. He’s had a tremendous offseason. Dominic is the brother of Tyler Lamm, who was outstanding for us a couple of years ago. Rhett Weidenbacher is a returning player with solid ability. David Barnes has a chance to be a very productive player.”
Linebacker is a position of strength for the Tigers with seniors Joshua Gillard (6-0, 205) and Austin Shaw (6-1, 220). Sophomore Tyler Grubbs (6-0, 240) makes this a huge group. Shaw had 80 stops and an interception a year ago while Grubbs led the team with 83 tackles. Gillard had 65 tackles.
“We’re excited about our linebackers but we preach to them weekly that they have to come with their best,” Rebaudo said. “There are no weeks off, especially in district play. We have to produce. Josh Gillard was elected one of our captains and he has done a phenomenal job over the last couple of years and we’re expecting good things from him. Austin has done a great job and we expect big things from him. Tyler is a young player who plays beyond his age. He is mature.”
The secondary is led by senior Kyree Currington (6-0, 185), who had 63 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery a year ago. Either Trevor Garcia (5-8, 165) or sophomore Colby Brown (5-8, 161) will man the free safety spot. Junior Chase Rouzano (5-11, 160) is set at one corner spot while the other will feature either senior Christian Bordelon (5-9, 160) or junior Dru Stephens (6-0, 150).
“Kyree Currington will be a three-year starter for us,” Rebaudo said. “He’s done a great job in the offseason. He’s dedicated himself to the weight room. We challenged him to improve in that area and he answered the challenge. He brings a ton of experience to the secondary with young guys around him. We’re hoping we are better in that facet this year.”
The competition for kicker and punter involve Nolan Heitmeier and Trevor Terminie (kicker) and Joseph Gerarve and Bryan Broussard (punter).
The schedule is negotiable early and difficult late.
The Tigers open against Higgins on Sept. 1 at Hoss Memtsas Stadium before hosting Covington on Sept. 8 at Tad Gormley Stadium. Week three is the annual rivalry contest at Bobby Nuss Stadium in Chalmette.
Holy Cross opens district play at Hoss Memtsas against Archbishop Shaw on Sept. 23 before hosting Jesuit in the annual Great American Rivalry contest at Tad Gormley on Sept. 29.
Things then get very tough the rest of the way.
An intriguing showdown with Rummel, and the quarterbacks who switched schools, awaits the Tigers in week six before Holy Cross takes on Brother Martin in week seven. Powerhouse and Catholic League favorite John Curtis travels to Gormley to take on the Tigers on Oct. 20, the Tigers face St. Augustine in week nine and close out the regular season on Oct. 26 at Live Oak in a non-district contest.
“With regard to the Catholic League, you need to look at who’s been dominating in the past couple of years,
Rebaudo said. “Obviously, John Curtis and Rummel have been the top teams in the past few years. Brother Martin, the past couple of years, have shown that they belong as a top-tier team. They graduated a few guys but are doing a good job with that program. St. Aug really came on last year. They have some key guys returning. Jesuit is always Jesuit with great coaching. Shaw has a lot of enthusiasm with a new regime.”
If Holy Cross is going to rebound in 2017, the Tigers will have to start fast and build momentum. They have not won a season opener since 2013.
“That’s what it’s about,” Rebaudo said. “We’ve been preaching to them. It’s been a number of years since we’ve been 1-0. We need to do that. Higgins will be a key game. Covington will be a challenge. Chalmette is always a huge rivalry. If we can win those games, it would build a lot of confidence leading into district play.”
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…