Slidell poised to continue winning ways

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Harlan Dixon

When Larry Favre returned to coaching in 2013, he knew he has missed being on the sideline. Favre did an excellent job at O. Perry Walker (1996-2000) and then at Fontainebleau (2001-2006), taking the Bulldogs to the Class 5A semifinals in 2004, the same year Slidell also reached the semifinals.

Favre knew it would take him some time to built the Tiger program back into a perennial playoff team and a threat to advance deep in the postseason.

He has now guided Slidell to the playoffs in five of the last six seasons.

Slidell has been to the top previously, winning state championships in Class B in 1944 and 1945 and the Tigers reached the 4A state title game in 1986.

It appears that the Tigers are nearing that kind of program once again.

A year ago, Favre guided Slidell to an impressive 9-3 record, including a District 6-5A title, going unbeaten in the league (7-0). The Tigers went on to defeat Central Lafourche in the playoffs before falling to East Ascension in a tough contest.

“It has been tedious getting here, taking a little longer than we thought it would,” Favre said. “We had to do a good job of getting people in our community coming back to Slidell High. The other part is sticking with what you believe in and staying the course. We stay with our core values and processes and we have become a program and it is fun. I never took time to enjoy what we accomplished at Fontainebleau. I am making sure I enjoy this now. I enjoy it a lot more.”

While there is still good talent on hand, Favre must replace quarterback Jacob Guidry, talented wide receiver Tito Simmons and cornerback Ishmael Burdine, among others.

Still, there is a bevy of experience and talent returning with 12 starters back from a year ago, including seven on offense.

The new quarterback is junior John Autry.

“John has exceeded all of our expectations,” Favre said. “He was superb in our scrimmage. He has come so far. He is from the Besh family which is so prevalent in Slidell High history, including Brenna and Brett. His dad played for Slidell. It has been really exciting to bring back that family. He had a great summer and it is carrying over. We just need him to be a good game manager but he can make plays.”

The 6-foot, 160-pound Autry has an outstanding senior running back with which to work in Harlan Dixon (6-1, 190). A year ago, Dixon, a Louisiana Tech commit, was brilliant, rushing 185 times for 1,398 yards and 12 touchdowns while compiling 31 catches for 615 yards and six touchdowns. The H-Back is junior Shea Haller (5-10, 165).

“We’re going to get a stacked box with Harlan,” Favre said. “We know this. He will still get his yards. He is bigger, faster and stronger than a year ago. He had an unbelievable offseason. Harlan will be ready for it. We can put him out at receiver as well, to move him around to get mismatches.”

Autry has an excellent senior to throw to in senior Jordan Smith (6-1, 185), who had 23 receptions for 382 yards and six touchdowns a year ago. Smith is joined on the outside by senior Myles Brown (5-11, 165). Kadin Besh will play in the slot.

“Jordan Smith started every game last year,” Favre said. “He has grown physically and gotten stronger. Jordan has emerged as one of the best receivers on this side of the lake. Myles Brown scored a touchdown last year. There is an opening for him to have a big year.”

Up front, the Tigers are strong, with three returning starters.

They include both guards in senior Nicholas Muller (5-10, 250) and Michael Nuber (6-2, 270), along with left tackle Gabriel Carbajal (6-4, 270). The right tackle is junior Jalin Toussaint (6-1, 266) while the center is sophomore Stacy Jarvis (5-11, 261).

“We have some experience up front,” Favre said. “Carbajal was good a year ago. Nuber returns and is big while Muller returns as well and will provide leadership. They are progressing as a unit. It helps settle our offense.”

The defense returns five starters, including a pair of good senior tackle in Matthew Retif (6-0, 240) and Cameron Williams (5-11, 230). The ends are juniors Jase Williams (6-2, 210) and Tyelor Dietrich (6-3, 180).

“The two senior tackles are solid up the middle,” Favre said. “

The strength of the defense is at linebacker while all four starters return.

Playing inside are seniors Donte Daniels (6-0, 195) and Anthony Chadwick (6-0, 205) while the outside will be manned by senior Terius Crawford and junior Mar’keegan Gray (5-10, 170). Daniels had 75 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and an interception last season while Crawford totaled 63 stops and scored a defensive touchdown in 2018.

“We know our linebackers will make plays,” Favre said. “Gray is physical for his size. Crawford transferred to us from Northshore. He is just a football player. Daniels and Chadwick are really good players.”

Senior safety Oscar Davis will lead the way in the secondary while the corners are senior Kylen Franklin (5-9, 165) and junior Ferron Lewis (5-10, 160).

“Davis started after Burdine got hurt last year and gained valuable experience,” Favre said. “He has really come on. Franklin and Lewis are fast, from our track program. They will get tested early but they are handling things really well.”

Junior Matthew Rowley will handle punting and kicking duties.

The schedule opens with three consecutive home games, beginning with Booker T. Washington on Sept. 6 before a real test against always tough Archbishop Rummel. The final game of the trio is against Harrison Central of Mississippi.

“We scrimmaged Walker and are playing Lakeshore in a jamboree,” Favre said. “Coach Wayne Reese is doing a good job with Booker T. Washington. It is great to see that name back in Orleans Parish. Rummel is one of the best teams in the country. That will be a great test. I always want that game in pre-district play. They will show you what your weaknesses is. We don’t know much about Harrison Central. We just agreed to play each other. It will prepare us for November.”

District 6-5A play opens with a critical road game at St. Paul’s before the Tigers entertain Mandeville on Oct. 3. After a trip to Hammond, Ponchatoula visits Slidell on Oct. 18. A road game at Covington follows before the Tigers host Fontainebleau. The regular season closes on Sept. 8 at Northshore.

“I always think this think the difference between talent in this league is razor-thin,” Favre said. “Ponchatoula is much better than a year ago. Mandeville is much improved. St. Paul’s is the perennial team to beat. Fontainebleau and Hammond are way better. Both have come leaps and bounds. You cannot dismiss anyone. We beat Covington for the first time since I got here last year. Northshore has a new coach and they will turn it around.”

With an experienced team, Slidell needs Autry to come of age early while Dixon carries the load. If that happens, the Tigers have a real shot at repeating as district champions and advancing at least as far as a year ago in the playoffs.

“Our motto is ‘unfinished business’ this year,” Favre said. “We should have been playing in the quarterfinals last year but we did not finish. We know we are capable of getting further. The goal is to be playing Thanksgiving week. I believe we can do that but we have not gotten there yet. We’ve got a lot to work for.”

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