Thrive Academy looks to thrive in first varsity football season
You have to start somewhere.
First-year programs are always interesting and they are a challenge.
It is the first varsity season for Thrive Academy. The Baton Rouge school will compete in District 6-1A.
Brian Glover has seven years of experience as a head coach, previously served as head coach at Sophie B. Wright and at Pointe Coupee Central and he has worked as a top assistant at St. Helena and was at Patterson most recently.
With a new program and a small school, Glover knows his biggest challenge.
“We are at about 35 kids right now with our varsity program,” Glover said. “We are one of the smallest 1A schools in the state so our numbers will never really be that high.”
Two-way performer Alven Johnson (6-4, 245 Sr.) is the name everyone will get to know well. Jonson is a standout player at defensive end and will play tight end as well. Johnson has committed to play college football at Baylor.
“Alven’s pure physical ability is something you cannot teach,” Glover said. “He runs a 4.7 forty and he is big and athletic. He will anchor our defensive front. He is a novice when he comes to football because he had never played the sport before we got here. He is still learning the position. His natural attributes are intriguing.”
Junior Nathaniel Poindexter (5-9, 160) is the quarterback and he is an excellent athlete. Poindexter will also play defensive back.
“Nathaniel is probably the best pure athlete on the team,” Glover said. “He is a jack of all trades. He is out point guard in basketball. It will be his first time playing quarterback. He has natural leadership skills. We are just going to put the ball in his hands. We are working with him on reading defenses in the passing game. We’re not going to put too much on him.”
Junior Jashai Franklin (5-9, 170) will get the bulk of carries at running back and will double at linebacker.
“Jashai started on our junior varsity last year,” Glover said. “We will shuttle in others for a running back by committee.”
Junior Tremaine Smith (5-11, 170) and senior Storm Grayer (5-11, 175) are set to be featured at wide receiver and at defensive back. Also starting at wide receiver are senior Anthony Davis (5-10, 170) and sophomore DeMarcus Patterson (5-10, 160).
“Smith and Grayer are two returning players from last year,” Glover said. “Those are two of the more experienced guys that we have. Tremaine runs very good routes. He has good hands and good speed. Storm is a leader and overall tough football player. He will do everything you need him to do as a receiver, including blocking. He’ll even carry the ball a bit.”
The offensive line features three seniors, including tackles Vernon Medearis (6-0, 185) and senior Malachi Horton (5-11, 205), who should also be outstanding at linebacker. The guards are senior Ronntrell Bell (6-0, 225) and junior Garland Franklin (5-10, 205) while the center is freshman Cameron McNair (5-9, 285).
“Horton and Medearis are our anchors up front,” Glover said. “They are smart guys and are very good at picking up the offense. McNair is just a freshman but he started as an eighth-grader last year. He’s going to be a good one for us.”
The defense features five seniors.
Another star is defensive end Davion Kibodeaux (6-1, 185) and he will be joined at end by Johnson. The tackles are Bell and Franklin while Horton and Medearis are the linebackers.
The secondary includes Smith and Grayer at safety, along with sophomore D’Walon Johnson (5-10, 170). The corners are junior Keith Jordan (5-10, 170) and Patterson.
“Defensively, we will have guys playing both ways,” Glover said. “We are excited about our defense. It was our strong point last year. We expect it to be even better this year. Our two-way guys were mostly more comfortable on defense. They love being aggressive. It should be our strong point again this year.”
Senior Timothy Morris (5-8, 155) will handle punting and kicking duties.
The season opens at home against Varnado on Sept. 5, followed by three consecutive road games at Dunham, Glen Oaks and Livingston Collegiate. Homecoming follows against Hanson Memorial.
“Dunham is always good,” Glover said. “We picked them up after another school backed out of their contract with us. With The Church Academy closing down, I saw Dunham was supposed to play them so we called them and scheduled a game. Varnado has a new coaching staff. Glen Oaks will be a good challenge and a local team. Livingston is just starting varsity as well. Hanson is important as it is our Homecoming game.”
District 6-1A play begins on Oct. 10 at home against Slaughter Community before the Bulldogs finish the regular season with three straight district road games at Southern Lab, East Iberville and Central Private.
“I think the district will be very interesting,” Glover said. “We know how good Southern Lab is every year and they are the team to beat. Slaughter has been on the rise the last couple of years but they have a new coach. I am not familiar with Central Private. We picked up East Iberville as a non-district game to fill a bye week. They are a program on the rise.”
If the Bulldogs can stay healthy with many two-way players, they can be competitive immediately in their first season of varsity play.
“I am very, very anxious to see how quickly we adjust to varsity football and that atmosphere and catching up to the speed of the game,” Glover said. “We were successful, 5-1 at the junior varsity level last year. This is a step up. The quicker we can adjust to that, I know we have the talent and ability to come out of the season with a winning record and making the playoffs.”
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