Tierney, Ponchatoula still green after many years

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T.J. Finley #15

Ponchatoula is a good football program. Hank Tierney is a great coach who has clearly found a home in Tangipahoa Parish.

While Tierney recently went home to visit former players and coaches at Archbishop Shaw, where he coached 18 years and won a state championship, his home is now in Ponchatoula, still donning green after all these years.

Coming off of another excellent season (10-2), the Green Wave have won 39 games over the last four years and have posted a 50-22 mark in six seasons under Hank Tierney, who is tied for 10th all-time in victories (271) in Louisiana prep football history.

There is talent returning and there is a challenge awaiting Tierney and his Green Wave in 2017.

The Green Wave return six prominent starters on offense, including senior running back Jo’Quan Johnson (5-10, 170) and senior wide receiver Sa’lan Weber (5-11, 165). Junior Tyjae’ Spears (5-11, 175) is set to start at running back as well while other receivers include senior Armri Cyprian (6-2, 155), D’avis James and junior Cameron Gresham (5-11, 145). The tight end is senior Matt Landry (6-3, 210).

“If we have any experience at all, it is on offense,” Tierney said. “Jo’Quan is a three-year starter and one of the fastest players we have ever had. Spears is a very good player. Weber is exceptional and could play at the next level.”

Massive sophomore T.J. Finley (6-6, 205) takes over at quarterback for Jakyle Holmes. Finley transferred from St. Thomas Aquinas.

“Finley started every game for St. Thomas Aquinas last year,” Tierney said. “He’s a Ponchatoula kid who is really huge. He’s the best thrower I’ve ever had. He can really toss it. We are trying to fit him into what we do schematically. He is very intelligent and he has already grasped the offense. We are trying to fit option-wise into his skill set but we would be foolish not to take advantage of his ability to throw it and we have speed for him to throw to. Of course, replacing Jakyle will not be easy for us.”

The Green Wave will be outstanding up front with four senior starters returning, including Zach Landry (6-3, 215), Nagie James (6-4, 335), Jacobe Mitchell (6-2, 207) and Travion Robertson (6-1, 260). Junior Scott Jacobs (5-11, 253) is the new starter.

“Our offensive line is our strength,” Tierney said. “We know that this group will certainly take care of business and carry us early on.”

The defense returns four prominent starters, including senior defensive end Jade Coker (6-0, 210). The other end is junior Gayden Gauthreaux (5-9, 180) while the tackles will be seniors Hunter Tabb (5-10, 255) and Dorian Richardson (5-8, 295).

“Coker is a really good player,” Tierney said. “We expect him to be a leader and a very productive player for us. We feel the others can hold their own at the point of attack and they will have to do so for us to be successful.”

Senior Peyton Ryan (6-1. 200) is back to anchor the linebacker position and will be joined by senior Cade Winburn (5-6, 155) and sophomore Russell Rock (5-8, 215).

The secondary has a pair of returning starters in senior safeties Avery Rogers (6-0, 195) and Morris Evans (5-11, 190). The corners are junior Josh Fryar (5-8, 145) and senior Chava Ketchens (6-0, 170).

“Rogers and Evans are experienced players and should be good,” Tierney said. “Otherwise, we have a lot of new kids who are going to have to grow into their positions. We are going to have to get better in a hurry on defense.”

Senior Shawn Lagroue (5-9, 160) will handle kicking and punting duties while Spears, Weber and James are the kick and punt return specialists.

“We graduated an all-state kicker in Carson Wild but Lagroue is going to be very good, we feel,” Tierney said. “He will punt and kick.”

The schedule opens in Lake Charles at always tough Barbe on Sept. 1 before the Green Wave host Denham Springs. The final non-district game is at home against Loranger.

“Barbe is always good while Denham Springs has a new coach with a good offensive reputation,” Tierney said. “Loranger always plays us tough. We trailed them for three quarters last time we played and it is a rivalray game.”

District 6-5A play opens Sept. 22 at home against Covington before a trip to Mandeville. After playing at Slidell, the Green Wave face a showdown with St. Paul’s at The Swamp on Oct. 13. Week eight has Ponchatoula at Fontainebleau before the final home game with Northshore. The regular season concludes Nov. 3 at Hammmond.

“A lot of people feel Covington will have a chance to win the league with a four-year start in Devin Brumfield at running back,” Tierney said. “He is very good. Other than the year we beat St. Paul’s, they have won the league every year with Mandeville second and very good. We feel this league is very similar to the Catholic League with rivalries, good players and good coaches. It is a fun league to coach in.”

The green still looks good on Tierney. His team wears it well and represents the color quite well and should once again in 2017.

“I certainly feel comfortable in green,” Tierney laughed.

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