Interview: Lakeshore ready to continue consistent winning ways in 2020
It is hard to find a program that has posted more victories than Lakeshore over the past three seasons.
The Titans have lost just one game in each of those three seasons.
Unfortunately, it was the final game each year, preventing Lakeshore from the one elusive goal remaining which is not on its resume—winning a state championship.
Entering his eighth season at Lakeshore, Craig Jones has done a tremendous job, leading the Titans to a 39-3 mark over those three seasons with a state title game appearance in 2017. The following season, Lakeshore made the quarterfinals and in 2019, the Titans lost in the semifinals.
Speaking on 106.1 FM Thursday night, Jones made it clear that winning a state title is the zenith.
“That’s always the goal for us,” Jones said. “We wish we would have gotten back there last year.”
When Jones got to Lakeshore, he was the defensive coordinator for two seasons after serving in the same capacity under Guy Lecompte at Mandeville. He believed that Lakeshore could become an elite program.
“I felt like we could,” Jones said. “Growing up in this area and kind of seeing the success that Mandeville was having and where they were pulling their kids from, and then Fontainebleau was built and kind of took those kids.
Then, Lakeshore was built and took the kids from them due to attendance zones, I kind of felt like Lakeshore was a place that was obviously unknown because it was new. Knowing the area, I really had a good idea of what I thought it could grow into. I did feel like it would be a good place to get a position at.”
Jones knows when the winning formula, the winning attitude, was born at Lakeshore.
“Our senior class, which was the class of 2016, the season of 2015, that class really instilled the culture that we still thrive on,” Jones said.
“They were the ones that kind of helped get the program going in the right direction when they were sophomores in 2013 and juniors in 2014. It was 2015 when they took the bull by the horns and said this is how things are going to be done in order for us to be successful. Every class behind them, in their own different way, has kind of followed the same theme.”
Lakeshore graduated over 20 seniors from last year’s semifinal team, including 16 or 17 senior starters, eight of whom were three year starters.
The biggest loss to overcome for Jones is superstar Christian Westcott, who did it all for the Titans a year ago in earning the Most Valuable Player honors in the metro area for the Greater New Orleans Quarterback Club, for CrescentCitySports.com, for 106.1 FM and for Friday Night Football.
Westcott was the Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Louisiana for his brilliant play on defense but primarily at quarterback, where a large hole must be filled.
“Right now, we’ve got a junior starter in Kempton Hollingshead,” Jones said. “He’s a different kid than Christian, who allowed us to do so much in the quarterback run game. Kempton reminds me of the quarterback we had before Christian, Parker Orvin. He’s done a really good job in the limited time we’ve had to work with him.”
Where are the Titans strongest heading into the 2020 season?
“I feel like we’re very talented at the receiver position,” Jones said. “Our linebacker position on defense is strong. We’ve got B.J. Foster at wide receiver. He was honorable mention All-State. Devon Weilbaecher at linebacker is a returning honorable mention All-State player. He’s really the guy that’s going to assume a lot of the roles that Christian Westcott did last year.”
In recent years, Lakeshore has squared off with Karr, Warren Easton and Neville in the state playoffs, beating the latter once while losing once and losing to the other two. What will it take for Lakeshore to reach the level of those teams consistently?
“The biggest thing is the opportunity to play them,” Jones said. “It’s kind of a philosophy that goes back to when Coach Lecompte got the job at Mandeville. He immediately scheduled John Curtis for week one. So many people questioned why to schedule John Curtis?
Lo and behold, the first year we scheduled them was when Joe McKnight was a senior. They went and beat the brakes off of Hoover (AL).”
Eventually, the shock of facing an elite opponent wore off.
“What happened was after two or three years, John Curtis became another team on the schedule,” Jones said. “It was no longer this big game that the kids were all wide-eyed with. Our ability to play Neville two times in the last three years, Karr in the championship game and Easton in the semifinals, those games are ones that we want to play in more. Hopefully, that is something we can continue to do.”
What does it mean that his players will finally get a chance to play after so much doubt about even having a season?
“It’s everything,” Jones said. “To see the look on their faces, every time I could give them some new update that was just creeping closer and closer to us being able to play, you could see it in their eyes. There was one point where we got extended for four weeks in Phase 2. I told them I could not promise anything but I have the feeling we’re about to get put in Phase 3 and it’s almost here. They just kept coming to work. The kids are obviously excited.”
The excitement is largely due to the great job Jones and his staff have done in building one of the best programs in Louisiana in 4A.
Lakeshore scrimmages Slidell Friday evening at 5:30 p.m. before opening with Northshore next Friday night.
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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…