Slidell ready for breakthrough football season
It has been a long time coming but you could see it coming.
The Slidell Tigers appear ready for a breakout season in 2018.
Slidell won consecutive Class B state titles in 1944 and 1945. The Tigers reached the Class B title game in 1946 and the Class 4A championship game in 1986, falling in overtime to Ruston.
Slidell reached the 5A quarterfinals in 2002. Most recently, the Tigers reached the 5A semifinals in 2004.
Ironically, current Slidell head coach Larry Favre guided Fontainebleau to the state semifinals the same year, though both the Tigers and Bulldogs fell short of reaching the Superdome.
As the 16th seed a year ago, Slidell lost a tough 28-24 opening round playoff game at home to Dutchtown. While still smarting from that loss, the Tigers are poised for bigger things in 2018 as Favre enters his sixth season on the job.
Favre was the head coach at O. Perry Walker from 1996-2000 and served as head coach at Fontainebleau from 2000-2006. He has slowly built Slidell into a good program once again. He has guided Slidell to the playoffs in four of the last five seasons.
“It has taken us longer here at Slidell than it did at O. Perry Walker and Fontainebleau and there has been some doubt, frankly,” Favre said. “It is sweet to be in a position to win here. I’m 56-years-old and I’m having the time of my life. I’ve never enjoyed mentoring as much.
The Tigers return seven starters on offense.
“We have experience on offense with seven starters back and almost all of them are seniors,” Favre said. All of our skill is back. We are excited. We had a great summer. We have a lot of athletes. We have depth. We can run.”
Senior Jacob Guidry (5-11, 180) is back to run the offense. Guidry completed 95-of-162 passes for 1,388 yards and 12 touchdowns and rushed 80 times for 380 yards and two touchdowns a year ago.
“Guidry is a senior and he is solid for us,” Favre said. “It is important to have experience at that position and Jacob has that.”
The running game will be led by senior Tito Simmons (5-8, 165). Simmons rushed for 1,026 yards and tight touchdowns on 171 carries last season and was a top receiver as well with 30 receptions for 483 yards and three touchdowns. junior Harlan Dixon (6-1, 185). Dixon carried 62 times for 454 yards and a touchdown last season and caught 21 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns. Senior Kevin Boatner (6-1, 185) is a returning starter as well and will man the H-Back position.
“Tito is going to be a four-year starter for us,” Favre said. “Harlan Dixon is probably one of the top 20 kids in the area.”
The new starting wide receivers include senior Zachary Hughes (6-0, 155) and junior Jordan Smith (6-1, 170).
Up front, three starters return, including senior center Chaz Burchfield (6-2, 250), senior guard Quinton Dawson (5-11, 225) and senior right tackle David Herod (6-1, 290). The new starters are senior guard Cameron Ryals (5-11, 225) and sophomore Gabriel Carbajal (6-3, 260).
“With our skill players back and with three starters back up front, we think we can score some points this year,” Favre said. “We’ve seen that in 7-on-7 this summer.”
The biggest challenge is to replace seven starters on defense, including the entire defensive line.
“We do not have the same amount of experience on defense but we like the ability,” Favre said. “We only return four starters but we like the group coming back.”
Up front, the Tigers have size. Favre expects to start senior ends Marcus Candiff (6-5, 325) and Blake Simmons (6-0, 205), along with junior Matthew Retif (6-0, 245).
A pair of starters return at linebacker, including senior Kobie Pettis (5-11, 205) on the inside and junior Donte’ Daniels (5-11, 190) on the outside. The other inside linebacker is junior Anthony Chadwick (5-11, 205) while the other outside linebacker will be sophomore Mar’Keegan Gray (5-10, 155).
The secondary features a pair of returning starters, including a star in senior safety Ishmael Burdine (6-1, 185). Burdine has many Division I offers and has narrowed his choices to Missouri, Mississippi State and Tennessee. Senior cornerback Jerry Thompson (5-8, 155) is back as well while the new starter is junior Kylen Franklin (5-8, 155).
The kicking game is solid with senior Josh Wills (5-7, 145) returning, along with Candiff, who is back to take care of punting duties. Burdine and sophomore Torian King (5-8, 155) are the primary return men.
The schedule opens in tough fashion at home against Destrehan on Aug. 31 before a home game with John F. Kennedy. The Tigers travel to face Walker in their final non-district game.
District 6-5A action begins on Sept. 21 at Hammond before the Tigers host rival Covington on Sept. 28. A tough road trip to Ponchatoula follows before home games against Mandeville and St. Paul. After a trip to Fontainebleau, the Tigers close at home against Northshore in the battle of Slidell on November 2.
“It is such a well coached league,” Favre said. “Everyone has a great program, everyone is well coached. There is not much that separates us. St. Paul’s has been the perennial champion since I left Fontainebleau in 2007. Slidell has not beaten them in that time frame.”
While the Wolves figure to be tough again, there are other good teams to contend with as well.
“Coach Hank Tierney is a mentor at Ponchatoula,” Favre said. “Coach Hutch Gonzales, I’ve known him since he played at Covington and he will do well at Mandeville. Fontainebleau is solid and improving and Coach Steven Jones will have the most improved team at Hammond. There is no easy game. You have to earn victories every week.”
With an experienced, talented offense, Slidell is a definite contender to win 6-5A and the Tigers are poised to advance in the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
“That’s what made last year so tough,” Favre said. “It was our best record in 11 years and our first home playoff game in 11 years and a 7-3 record. We were beating Dutchtown 24-7 at the half and then to have it all come tumbling down in the second half. Certainly that has been our motivation all offseason heading into this year. It the motivation with our returning players and returning seniors to kind of take that bad taste out of our mouths.”
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