McDonogh 35 poised for title run
To be the best, you have to beat the best.
McDonogh 35 and long-time head coach Wayne Reese understand this premise as well as anyone.
In 2015, the Roneagles were eliminated by district rival Warren Easton (27-26) in the quarterfinals. In 2016, it was a loss to district rival Karr (26-14) in the semifinals which ended the season for 35. The Roneagles also reached the semifinals in 2012, falling to Neville (28-8) and lost in the quarterfinals to the Tigers in 2011.
Karr, Neville and Warren Easton have been the top programs in the state in Class 4A over the last five years with Franklinton in the mix as well.
For McDonogh 35 to take the step from being a very good program to being a championship program, the Roneagles will have to fly a bit higher and beat the likes of the aforementioned elite programs in the class.
McDonogh 35 is armed and ready to take on that challenge in 2017.
In his 37 years as a head coach, Reese has had many good teams and his team this year will rival his best. When all of your offensive starters are seniors and nine are returning starters and seven defensive starters return, you are well equipped to make a serious run at a championship.
“It’s hard to say if it is my best team,” Reese said. “It is a very good team that works hard and does what it needs to do to realize the fullest potential. We have some real skill on the offensive side of the ball, with one of the best receivers in the country and a very good quarterback. They have been with me since ninth grade.”
With as many as six legitimate Division I prospects, McDonogh 35 is led by a gifted senior quarterback in LeJohn Howard (6-2, 175).
Howard passed for 2,400 yards a year ago. Howard has a host of outstanding receivers to throw to, led by seniors Lawrence Keys (6-0, 173) and Jared Miles (6-1, 195). Keys had 975 yards receiving and 15 touchdown receptions while Miles had 915 yards of receptions a year ago.
Seniors Caleb Ezidore (6-1, 183) and Deddrick Clark (5-10, 170) are not far behind, skilled as well.
The running game is in good shape. Senior Eddie Tillman (5-10, 180) returns after rushing for 938 yards in 2016.
“All of our skill guys can really play,” Reese said. “We’ve had great players like Carlos Henderson but never this many guys on one team. It’s easy on the coaches when you have kids who know the system, have been in the system, give their all and are talented. LeJohn is like having another coach on the field. He knows everything he is supposed to do. He virtually calls his own plays. He is an excellent student as well. He can go anywhere he wants.”
Up front, senior Deron Mack (6-4, 287) is the best player but all five starters return, including JeDarius Collins (5-10, 288), Marcellius Hammond (5-10, 235), Morell Scott (6-0, 260) and Tarik Griffin (6-0, 255).
“It is as good as any offensive team I have ever had, including when we had Marshall Faulk and the great offenses at Carver,” Reese said.
The defense is led by a blue chip defensive back in senior Joseph Foucha (6-0, 194). Foucha had 59 tackles, six interceptions, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and scored five touchdowns in 2016 as a tremendous weapon in the kick return game as well. Foucha has offers from LSU, Alabama, Florida State and Oklahoma, among others.
“Foucha is a great talent who can run to the ball as well as anyone and make plays,” Reese said. “Our defense runs well. I think we will be good on that side of the ball, especially in the secondary but we have to bring it every week.”
Foucha is joined in the secondary by seniors Glen Brown (5-7, 155) and Joshua Gibson (5-8,1 55), along with juniors Austin Jones (6-0, 165) and Jaden Henderson (6-0, 190). Jones led 35 with seven interceptions while Henderson had four a year ago. Brown had 60 tackles, recovered nine fumbles and forced three fumbles last season.
At the linebacker level, senior Dajun Jenkins (6-0, 210) is the top returning player and he is joined by junior Desmond Tolbert (5-10, 200). Up front, seniors Dionte Burke (5-11, 240) and Tyrek Smith (6-0, 235) lead the way and are joined by a very talented junior Jalen Jackson (6-2, 270), along with Carlos McKee (6-0, 255).
The schedule opens with a bang against rival St. Augustine on Sept. 1 at Tad Gormley Stadium before hosting Higgins at Pan American Stadium. After traveling to Reserve to face East St. John, the Roneagles open district 10-4A action against Helen Cox at Pan American on Sept. 22.
A non-district trip to very tough Carencro follows before the annual showdown with Karr on Oct. 5 at Tad Gormley. McDonogh 35 celebrates Homecoming on Oct. 14 against Riverdale before a date with Carver on Oct. 19.
Another showdown follows against Warren Easton on Oct. 28 at Tad Gormley before the regular season ends Nov. 3 against Lake Area New Tech. A usual, District 10-4A will be quite tough.
“We have a pretty good schedule,” Reese said. “We will be tested early. St. Augustine has talent and will test us. If you want to be at your best in the playoffs, you have to play good people. It’s kind of hard to find games when you are good. If you want to be good, you have to play good teams. If we are as good as we are supposed to be, we should be fine. Karr and Easton are very good. Karr is the defending champion. Carver is a good team with speed. Carencro is very good. East St. John is talented.”
With one of the most seasoned, experienced teams and one of the most seasoned, experienced coaches in Louisiana. McDonogh 35 is poised to make a serious run at the 4A state title in 2017.
“This team has a great work ethic to get the job done,” Reese said.
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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…