Thomas Jefferson looks to build on football playoff appearance

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After appearing in the playoffs in three of the last four seasons, Thomas Jefferson is poised for another solid season in 2017.

Kevin Kelly has done an excellent job at the West Bank school, noted for its outstanding academics.

The Jaguars have competed well, going 45-46 in eight seasons with Kelly, the only coach of the young program, at the helm.

“I’m very happy with the growth, we’ve been pretty successful the last five years,” Kelly said. “We’ve been pretty consistent, good assistant coaches and good kids to work with. It is not easy. We don’t have a whole lot of kids but we do well with those we have.”

Thomas Jefferson reached the Division III playoffs a year ago but drew the unenviable task of having to take on powerful St. Charles Catholic in the first round. The Comets went to the state championship game.

“We don’t belong in select,” Kelly said. “Haynes does not belong as well. We have no say in our admissions. It is strictly academic. That is a huge disadvantage. We are a public school. I feel they just threw us in there because they did not have enough numbers. There are public school teams that we have beaten that go to the playoffs as higher seeds than us.”

The multiple offense of the Jaguars features the pistol formation in shotgun, as well as lining up under center in a diamond formation.

It is a young team in 2017 as Kelly must replace a host of offensive linemen and wide receivers from a year ago.

The Jaguars are unquestionably led by senior Arlen Williams (6-2, 190), who is committed to Dartmouth University. Williams threw for over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns a year ago. He will also play free safety.

“Arlen is an excellent athlete, of our best in the school and can play many positions,” Kelly said. “We’re going to depend on him quite a bit. We will mix it up, run a little option with him and get him out of the pocket. He’ll be a big part of our defense as well. He’s fast, strong and athletic.”

Other two-way stars include senior running back/linebackers Kevin Stevenson (5-10, 180) and Donovan Gibson (5-10, 185), running back/cornerback Darnevon Camille (5-9, 170), center/defensive tackle Edgar Vallery (6-1, 280), senior guard/defensive tackle Jakobi Douglass (5-11, 230), junior tight end/defensive end Sterling Alexis and junior tackle/defensive end Peyton Mitchell (6-3, 250).

“We have three seniors that play runningback and defense for us,” Kelly said. “They are all solid players. We’ll mix them in, based upon fatigue, rotating them in. We have some young guys up front as we lost quite a few linemen from last year. You have to be careful when playing guys both ways, knowing when to rest them. We had bad luck last year, losing Arlen to injury and ended up with a third-string quarterback.”

Gibson and Camille each rushed for nearly 500 yards a year ago while Gibson caught 21 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns and had 32 tackles while Camille was in on 40 tackles and led the team with four interceptions. Stevenson was second on the team in tackles with 67 and had five sacks. Douglass was in on 40 tackles while Alexis had 22 stops.

“Gibson and Camille were very good last year while Stevenson was a real surprise for us,” Kelly said. “He is one of our best players, fast and athletic. Alexis is a very good player who is maturing to become an even better player for us.”

The season opens with a bang as Thomas Jefferson takes on arch-rival Haynes Academy on Aug. 31 on the road in The Magnet Bowl before a tough test with always solid Newman at home at Hoss Memtsas Stadium on Sept. 7. The Jaguars visit Brees Family Field to take on Lusher on Sept. 15 and then travel to Donaldsonville to battle Ascension Catholic.

“We should compete well with our pre-district opponents but we feel we can compete well,” Kelly said. “Every game is a must-win with the power point system. It is going to be rough, a real test for us. Haynes is a good way to start the season, getting everyone excited. We know Newman is always good and Lusher has good skill.”

District 10-3A play opens with KIPP Renaissance on Oct. 7 at Memtsas before a trip to the northshore to take on Archbishop Hannan in a non-district contest Oct. 13. District games with Sophie B. Wright and Abramson-Sci Academy follow before the Jaguars close out the season against Cohen on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 4 at Hoss Memtsas.

The Jaguars need to get off to a good start and should have a good chance to win their league. How a young team matures early will go a long way toward determining the ultimate success of Thomas Jefferson in 2017.

“Our goal is to get a top eight seed and get a home game,” Kelly said. “I think Abramson-Sci Academy is going to be pretty good. They are getting their numbers up. I expect them to be good. All of the other teams in our league will challenge us as well. There are no easy games on our schedule. We have to be fast, smart and disciplined to have a chance to win.”

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Ken Trahan

Ken Trahan

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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…

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